If the many losses, continual injuries, head-scratching mistakes and personnel changes were not enough to completely demoralize the Mets this season, try this latest development: Noah Syndergaard, two starts into his return from a finger injury, is headed back to the disabled list with hand, foot and mouth disease.
Even in the middle of this forgettable season, the Mets could not believe it.
“‘Are you serious?’” Mets Manager Mickey Callaway recalled thinking when he received the news. “I guess it’s very uncommon in adults, period. It’s kind of odd. Maybe it’s the first D.L. stint in baseball with hand, foot and mouth. I don’t know.”
John Ricco, the Mets assistant general manager who is part of the triumvirate leading the team during General Manager Sandy Alderson’s medical leave, announced Syndergaard’s ailment before Sunday night’s game against the Yankees in the Bronx. Ricco faced 30 minutes of questions from reporters about the clumsy handling of Yoenis Cespedes and his painful feet, the trade of Jeurys Familia and the team’s general air of dysfunction.
Then Ricco said he had a final announcement to make: Syndergaard had received a diagnosis of hand, foot and mouth disease but was expected to miss just one start. The team believed Syndergaard, 25, had been exposed to the virus Thursday, when he was running a children’s camp in New Jersey. The illness commonly affects children younger than 5 and can be spread through contact.
The Mets also believed the infection was behind Syndergaard’s diminished velocity during his latest start on Friday, when he held the Yankees to one run over five innings. Callaway pulled Syndergaard after 84 pitches because he was showing signs of fatigue.
“We knew he was having trouble breathing,” Callaway said. “I put my hands on his legs to talk to him when he came out and I said, ‘Hey man, is everything O.K.?’ And I felt his legs shaking, so he was just weak and run down, and I think the virus just took its toll.”
Splotches and blisters associated with the disease were also starting to show up on Syndergaard’s hands. He was sent to the doctor and told to stay away from the team to avoid infecting others. Callaway said the team has been keeping an eye on those who had touched Syndergaard on Friday to make sure that they do not show any symptoms.
Syndergaard will be placed on the disabled list on Monday, and the minor league pitcher Corey Oswalt will slide into his place in the rotation on Wednesday. Ricco said the team expected Syndergaard to make a full recovery in a week or so.
By then, the Mets may have more unexpected twists in a woeful season full of them.