Rafael Montero – Forever a Met
It seemed like finally . . . FINALLY . . . Rafael Montero was about to pitch himself off the Mets roster. This was a long day coming for Mets fans who watched him go 6-16 with a 5.38 ERA, 1.705 WHIP, and a 5.2 BB/9 over parts of four years with the Mets. It was a frustrating experience to watch him continuously go out and pitch and seemingly be afraid to throw a strike.
What is even more maddening about his was he was once more highly regarded than Jacob deGrom. Remember, if Montero was healthy in 2014, it was possible deGrom would have been moved to the bullpen. That would have largely negated deGrom’s chances of winning the Rookie of the Year, and who knows what the long term ramifications would have been for the Mets organization.
That 2014 injury was an oblique injury. In the ensuing seasons, we have heard him complain of shoulder issues. The result was always the same. He complained, and the Mets would find nothing except “regular inflammation” associated with pitching. Montero would eventually go out, and he’d pitch. Except he wouldn’t pitch like the top prospect the Mets believed him to be. Rather, he looked skittish and afraid to throw a strike.
Now that we have the news Montero has a complete tear of his UCL which will likely require season ending Tommy John surgery. We at least have to contemplate if Montero’s issues were really injury and not a talent or mental issue.
Look, the Mets record on handling injuries is disgustingly poor. Time and again, we have seen pressure injured players to play, and we have seen them make mistake after mistake after mistake while learning nothing. Just look at last year. The Mets believed Matt Harvey would not be at full strength until May. The team originally wanted to have Zack Wheeler start the year in Extended Spring Training. However, when there were other injuries, the team opted to push these two to pitch instead of looking to grab a Scott Feldman off the scrap head and offer him a Major League job.
No, the Mets gambled on the core of their team, and they wound up losing both pitchers to stress reactions. The most disturbing discovery was the muscles in Harvey’s pitching shoulder had actually atrophied. That might not have been the case had the team let Harvey get to full strength.
Overall, the Mets have continued to mishandle the injury issues with their pitchers. They don’t require Noah Syndergaard to get an MRI before a start. They challenge Steven Matz to pitch through what was described as a massive bone spur in his pitching elbow. Through all of it, the team wound up with further injured pitchers who provided diminishing returns.
Maybe that was the case all along with Montero. Maybe not. What we do know is he’s going to stick around long enough for the Mets to discover if it was how they handled his injuries rather than how they handled his development.