REPORT ST. LUCIE – Brandon Nimmo appears to have avoided a long-term injury, but his availability to start the season with the Mets is up for debate.
Imaging performed on the outfielder’s right leg Saturday determined a mild sprain of the knee and ankle, according to general manager Billy Eppler, who added that Nimmo will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
“Good news,” Eppler said at Clover Park. “Everything looks good structurally… we have some time before Opening Day so we’ll just keep following him and probably get an update in a week and then we’ll be able to get a little better timeline for him. .”
Nimmo was helped off the field Friday-evening during an exhibition game against the Marlins after injuring himself sliding to second base trying to break up a double play (that was canceled out by catcher interference).
Nimmo’s knee was originally checked on the field by the team’s medical staff, but the Mets later announced that Nimmo had left the game with ankle pain.
The Mets begin their season March 30 in Miami, giving Nimmo less than two weeks to recover if he wants to secure a spot on the Opening Day roster.
But placed in the context of everything that’s happened for the Mets this week, the latest diagnosis had to seem positive.
“Overall, I feel good about the results we got compared to what they could have looked like,” said Eppler.
The most crushing blow was Edwin Diaz’s torn right patellar tendon, which is expected to sideline him this season.
The All-Star closer suffered the injury during an on-field celebration after the World Baseball Classic and underwent surgery on his right knee on Thursday.
The typical recovery time is eight months, but Eppler says a recovery time of six months is not out of the question.
Nevertheless, the Mets are operating under the assumption that they will not have Diaz this season.
The other big blow was Jose Quintana’s bone graft surgery to cover a stress fracture and a benign lesion on the fifth rib on his left side.
Quintana underwent the surgery Friday, according to Eppler, who previously said the southpaw will return to the team sometime after July 1.
If Nimmo opens the season on the injured list, the Mets will have several options for the opening spot and center field.
The most obvious candidate to start with is Jeff McNeil, who has previous experience in that role.
Tommy Pham has seen plenty of action in midfield this spring and would be a candidate to fill in soon.
Mark Canha falls into the same category and Tim Locastro, whose greatest asset is his speed, could be considered for a selection spot.
Starling Marte has a lot of experience in midfield, but a double groin surgery may not be the best candidate to play the position.
One possibility would be to add Brett Baty to the roster, if Nimmo needs an IL stint, and have the rookie play third base, with Eduardo Escobar shifting Pham’s right-hander DH role as Pham’s center field plays.
Nimmo returned to the Mets last offseason on an eight-year, $162 million contract after playing a career-high 151 games last season.
He withdrew his name from consideration for the WBC and started late in the Grapefruit League with a view to staying healthy for the long haul this season.