NEW YORK – The news came a shock to James McCann.
The Mets’ catcher knew that something was wrong with his left hand, but not the full extent of the damage.
On Thursday, the team placed McCann on the injured list with a fracture in the hamate bone, which sits above the wrist on the pinky side.
McCann is expected to have surgery sometime early next week. The 31-year-old backstop was told he could return to the lineup in about six weeks, although his hope is to expedite the process.
“Definitely not what I was expecting,” said McCann, who couldn’t pinpoint when the injury happened.
“Especially the hamate. To this day, I still passed the strength test. That’s something we had kind of written off as a thing. It caught me off guard.”
Before going on the IL, McCann had been dealing with soreness in his hand for “several weeks”, but to a lesser extent. Sometimes it would bother him in the cage or during batting practice but subside when the adrenaline rush of a game set in.
McCann decided to sound the alarm with the Mets on Tuesday when he started having problems while catching. They sat him out in back-to-back games in Washington before an X-ray showed the severity of the injury.
“It finally just got to the point where the pain tolerance, I just couldn’t do it anymore,” McCann said.
“I had some general soreness for a while there come and go. But the fact that the typical hamate is a guy takes one swing and loses the strength in his hand and it’s not really what happened to me. It’s something that over time, gradually occurred.”
In the meantime, the Mets will rely on catchers Tomas Nido and Patrick Mazeika, who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday. Nido started in the series-opener against Seattle and Mazeika got the nod on Saturday.
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Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that he was recently talking with GM Billy Eppler about who was fourth on the catching depth chart, although the skipper declined to specify who it was.
The demanding nature of the position is why Eppler was adamant about bringing a big flock of catchers to Spring Training and encouraged the Mets to split reps evenly between McCann and Nido.
On Friday, Mazeika spent most of his time in the dugout talking with right-hander Chris Bassitt in preparation for his latest assignment.
“I feel good about (our catching situation),” Showalter said. “One they’re good receivers and good callers of the game. And the pitchers seem to like throwing to them.”
Adding to the frustration for McCann is the timing of the injury.
After a month-long slump in April (.167 batting average), McCann briefly turned the corner this month by going 4-for-14 in six games.
And behind the plate, McCann deftly managed a staff that came into Saturday with the league’s fifth-best ERA.
“I finally had gotten to a point where I felt like I was comfortable,” McCann said. “Things were starting to click. It’s just another setback. But it’s something I’ll deal with and get through.”
During the recovery, McCann will be able to throw and lift and participate in some baseball activities. The tentative plan is to borrow Dom Smith’s lefty catching glove so he can continue to squat and receive pitches.
“Obviously post-op, there will be a few days where I have to recover,” McCann said. “But the plan is to stay as close to baseball shape as possible.”
Sean Farrell is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.