ATLANTA — The New York Mets are going to have to try to stay afloat in the NL wild card race without one of baseball’s best hitters.
Infielder/outfielder Jeff McNeil, owner of a .332 average, has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a low-grade left hamstring strain. The team is optimistic he won’t be sidelined for all that long with next Saturday his earliest return date.
"It's never easy to lose one of your core players,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “Obviously, Jeff at the top of the lineup and the ability to get multiple hits it seems like every night is a big blow. But I think that the team has shown all year some resiliency and the belief that the next guy up can contribute.”
McNeil suffered the strain while running to first on a groundout in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Atlanta. McNeil ran through the bag and came up lame, and grabbed the back of his left leg before walking off the field.
This is the second time McNeil has landed on the injured list due to a hamstring injury having missed time in late May and early June.
McNeil was not available for comment before the Mets faced the Atlanta Braves, and the team promoted Ruben Tejada to take his spot.
“Again, with the good news is that it doesn't appear McNeil will be out for an extended period of time gives us all optimism,” Van Wagenen said before Wednesday’s game. “Overall, you pick up the pieces and keep going and not allow any individual piece to derail what's been a really exciting week for the club.”
Tejada is starting at second base and batting seventh in his first game with the Mets since Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS when he broke his leg after then-Dodgers infielder Chase Utley slid into him to break up a double play. That play created what is known as the Utley Rule regarding collisions at second base.
“I think they have to figure out some good things,” Tejada said. “It’s still fine.”
While McNeil will miss at least nine games, there is some positive news on in the injury front regarding Jed Lowrie (knee/calf/hamstring) and Brandon Nimmo (neck).
Lowrie, who has yet to play a game after signing a two-year, $20-million deal this offseason, faced live pitching in a simulated game for the first time Wednesday.
Van Wagenen said Lowrie is hitting and fielding although he’s not running at full speed. A rehab assignment is not yet in the plans.
"It's absolutely our hope and expectation he’ll play this year,” Van Wagenen said.
Nimmo, who has been sidelined with a bulging disc in his neck, is slated to begin a rehab assignment in the next few days.
The Mets (61-58) entered Wednesday two games back of the Cardinals in the NL wild card race, and nine games back in the NL East.
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