The Mets informed reporters, including Tim Healey of Newsday, that left-hander José Quintana has a “small stress fracture” in his fifth rib on his left side. He left his spring outing yesterday with side tightness and later announced that he was withdrawing from the World Baseball Classic. He is leaving camp and headed to New York for further imaging. The club does not have a timeline on his recovery yet.
Quintana, 34, was pencilled in to be a key piece of the Mets’ rotation this year after signing a two-year, $26MM deal in the offseason. He had a rough couple of seasons in 2020 and 2021 but bounced back nicely last year with the Pirates and Cardinals. He tossed 165 2/3 innings between the two clubs with a 2.93 ERA, 20.2% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 46.4% ground ball rate. The Mets signed him to that two-year pact and hoped to have him in their rotation alongside Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and Carlos Carrasco.
At this point, it’s still unclear what the next steps will be, but it seems like Quintana will at least be delayed. There’s just over three weeks until Opening Day at this point. Even if he’s able to return to the mound in short order, he would still need some time to build up his pitch count.
It was around this time last year that Red Sox lefty Chris Sale was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib, which prevented him from making his season debut until July. That’s not to say Quintana is facing the same absence, as all injuries are unique and players respond to them differently. However, it does illustrate that the diagnosis has the chance to be significant.
We don’t know what kind of absence Quintana ultimately will require, but the Mets have depth options on their roster if Quintana does eventually need to miss some of the regular season. Joey Lucchesi was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2022 and missed all of the MLB season. He began a rehab assignment in August of last year and pitched 12 2/3 minor league innings before the winter arrived. Back in 2019, he made 30 starts for the Padres and posted a 4.18 ERA. Tylor Megill made nine starts and six relief appearances for the club last year, posting a combined 5.13 ERA. David Peterson had a 3.83 ERA across 19 starts and nine relief appearances last year and would perhaps be the first one called up to take a rotation job. He recently had his own injury scare when a comebacker hit him in the foot, though it seems he escaped with just a contusion and is day-to-day. All three of Lucchesi, Megill and Peterson have options, allowing them to be stretched out in the minors whenever their services are not required by the big league club.