MIAMI — Thursday was supposed to be the triumphant opening to the highly anticipated 2023 season for the Mets. Cohen, the billionaire owner of the team, has pledged a record $377 million in salaries, according to estimatesAnd that was before the $105 million luxury tax bill arrived. Money does not guarantee winning the tournament but it certainly improves the odds.
Case in point: The Miami Marlins, Thursday, started right-hander Sandy Alcantara, 2022 National Youth League winner Sandy Alcantara. The Mets responded with right-hander Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who Cohen lured to New York for a record annual salary before last season. But when they both faltered by allowing three runs, Mets quarterback Brandon Nimmo re-signed this season for $162 million over eight years, hitting a two-run tiebreaker in the seventh of a 5-3 win.
“It was exciting to be back there,” Nemo said afterwards. And it felt like a home game. There were a lot of “Let’s Go Mets!” anthems.”
But just over two hours before the first pitch at Depot Park, the Mets announced their most notable addition of the offseason, a pitcher he envisioned would help them dig deeper into the postseason after an early exit last year, starting the season on the injured list. Last year’s American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander was suffering from what the team described as a low shoulder muscle strain.
“It’s not the way I wanted my tenure at the Mets to start, that’s for sure,” said Verlander, who signed a two-year, $87 million deal. “I’ve done a lot of work so that such things don’t happen.”
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He later added, “I’m so proud and I love promoting. I just want to be there and not be able to do it, especially with a new team and a new fanbase, just not feel good.”
The Major League Baseball regular season consists of 162 games over about six months, so there’s plenty of time. Mets general manager Billy Eppler and Verlander both stressed that an MRI scan of Verlander’s right shoulder revealed a “very minor” injury to the teres muscle, a muscle that extends from the lower end of the shoulder through the pit of the arm.
During his recent start in spring training, Verlander, 40, felt something so slight in his side that it caused the usual pain of aiming and adjusting his mechanics. But that feeling lingered until Wednesday, when he threw a bench in anticipation of what was supposed to be his Mets debut on Saturday.
“The fact that I will be able to continue pitching shows how minor the injury is,” he said. “But still, there’s something. If it’s a different point in the season, especially late in the year, I think a promotion is definitely on the table. Playoffs, I’m definitely promoting. With us being the start of the season and coming out of spring training, it makes a lot of sense.” Not paying it now and risking three months when it’s a lot less than that.”
However, Verlander isn’t the only major player the Mets are missing to start this season with high expectations. Baseball’s best Edwin Diaz, who was re-signed by the Mets to a record five-year, $102 million deal in the offseason, was expected to miss the entire season after surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his knee. Rips during the World Baseball Classic. Jose Quintana, a veteran quarterback who joined the Mets on a two-year, $26 million deal in December, may be out until the summer with a stress fracture in a rib and a lesion on his side that requires surgery.
In the NL East where the Atlanta Braves are the defending division winners and the Philadelphia Phillies are the defending pennant winners, the Mets have little margin of error. Epler noted that the massive spending was part of Cohen’s plan to make the Mets’ competitors competitive when he took over as owner. Eppler said his goal is to stick to a high spending strategy where the farm system is restocked so that in the future the team can use free agency “a little bit more as a luxury rather than a necessity.”
So it’s time to count on the depth the Mets have put together. Tylor Megill, who had a 5.13 ERA last year, will exit Class AAA and replace Verlander, a three-time Cy Young Award winner. David Peterson, who starts the Mets’ second game of the season on Friday, will fill Quintana’s void.
In terms of rounding, manager Buck Showalter said he would rely on several relievers but noted that veteran right fielder David Robertson, another off-season addition, had the most experience in the role. With two hits and a jumper, Robertson made the save on Thursday.
“I’ve never been part of a team from start to finish, no matter how good the team is, whether it’s a World Series winning team or a playoffs team or something else, that didn’t deal with injuries all season long,” Verlander said. . But maybe we’ll get it all out of the way now.”
The Mets didn’t dwell on those recent misfortunes, Showalter said, insisting Verlander’s injury didn’t dampen their Opening Day excitement. He did not deny that this season was a world championship or bankruptcy for the team with the largest financial commitment in history.
“That’s why we wear a uniform,” he said. “It’s what we’re trying to do. So will the Marlins. So will the Washington Nationals, the Braves and the Philadelphians. It’s going to be tough. It was tough last year. It’s going to be tough this year. What happened, the good and the bad last year, we’re starting from zero again.”
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