The first Steven Matz sighting in two weeks might be the last for some time.
Making his first appearance since being removed from the starting rotation, the Long Island native pitched a perfect inning in his third career relief outing but prematurely left Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Yankees with shoulder discomfort, which Luis Rojas expects will send Matz to the injured list.
“It feels like that,” the Mets manager said. “Let’s wait, just to see with him, but it feels like that.”
Rojas said Matz — who has endured numerous injuries to his throwing arm in his career — felt discomfort earlier in the week, but the first-year manager claims the team was “cautious” with the 29-year-old lefty, who said he was ready to take the mound for the first time since Aug. 15.
“After the five days we didn’t play, he threw and he felt something, so he started doing some treatment, getting him back to his routine, getting him back to where he could throw, and he felt good,” Rojas said. “We were cautious with him. … We did not intend to use him earlier in the week because of that reason.
“He was good to go. He did his session and everything he needed to do to keep him stretched out, and responded well.”
Before the game, Rojas said Matz — who has started 106 of 109 career games — would remain in the bullpen for the foreseeable future, with the southpaw slotted for a multi-inning role.
However, Matz winced after throwing a pitch in the fifth inning, and was pulled after 19 pitches (12 strikes), which included two strikeouts.
“We didn’t feel good about him going back,” Rojas said. “He just didn’t feel right, so we removed him because of that. We’ll reassess more what’s going on.”
Matz entered with a 9.00 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in five starts, having allowed at least five runs and lasting less than five innings in three consecutive outings.
A little more than a year after Matz made his first relief appearance — against the Yankees on July 4, 2019 — Rojas had said the former World Series starter could return to the rotation at “some point,” but not soon.
Rick Porcello (1-4, 6.43 ERA) and Seth Lugo (1-2, 2.03 ERA) are scheduled to start Sunday’s doubleheader.
“Matz will start at some point in the future. We’re never gonna rule that out, but we want to focus on right now and that’s what his role is, helping us with length out of the pen,” Rojas said. “He’s gonna give us length when we use him. That’s kind of what the role is because we’re gonna try and keep Matz stretched out similar to what he’s been as a starter. That’s the plan with him.
“We need the length. … We don’t have a length guy right now in the pen that can save the bullpen.”
Following Walker Lockett being designated for assignment on Friday, the Mets could recall right-hander Drew Smith from the alternate site to replace Matz. Smith, 26, has posted a 3.00 ERA in seven appearances this season.