Mets 2B Neil Walker diagnosed with herniated disk

ByAdam Rubin ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NEW YORK -- Mets second baseman Neil Walker has been diagnosed with a herniated disk in his lower back that has caused some weakness in his foot.

The initial medical recommendation is that Walker will do no additional damage by playing through the issue. Still, Mets officials and Walker are playing it safe by having another doctor review the MRI on Wednesday before having him return to the field.

Walker has missed the past three games because of the latest flare-up of the back issue. He experienced a similar issue, including the foot weakness, back in 2012 while with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Anytime you have a back issue, you can be symptomatic in various ways," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "He doesn't have any pain. There is some weakness, but not significant enough to prevent him from playing. I think the big concern is: Can he further injure his back? That's the reason for the second opinion."

Alderson suggested anybody portraying the injury as career-threatening is uninformed.

"I think the currently circulating story is a little overblown," Alderson said. "Based on the information we have currently, Neil can play. And the notion that what he has currently is 'career ending' is a fabrication at this stage. I don't want people to become too concerned about where we are, but we're getting a second opinion, as we do in a lot of these cases, and we'll know more today. But as of right now we don't think it's as serious as has been portrayed.

"He's got a disk [issue], which is pretty routine," the GM continued. "So we're not talking about something that's career-threatening in my judgment, based on what I've heard from the doctors."

Walker isn't the only player getting an additional medical review on Wednesday. Steven Matz is having his balky left shoulder reexamined. The Mets had hoped Matz would return from the disabled list to make a start on Thursday, but an impingement is still leading to rotator-cuff irritation.

Alderson said there is no immediate thought to shutting down Matz for the remainder of the season, despite the fact Matz already will require offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.

"I'm pleased with the way in which these issues have been handled," Alderson said. "Steven has pitched through the elbow issue over the last couple of months admirably. We certainly are going to be very careful about the shoulder, just as we have, I think, been about the elbow as well. We're not at the point yet where we say, 'Look, it doesn't make any sense to continue.' Until a doctor tells us that, or we determine that in discussions with Steven, he's still part of the team."

Alderson insisted the mounting injuries have not been frustrating given the team's play of late. With young pitchers such as Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman having stepped into the rotation, the Mets (68-64) have moved to within 2 games of the St. Louis Cardinals for National League's second wild-card spot.

"We're 8-2 the last 10 games, so it's a little hard to be frustrated," Alderson said. "It's challenging for [manager] Terry [Collins] and the staff. It's challenging for the players. It's challenging for us. But, as an organization, I think we're meeting the challenge. We'll see what happens over the next 10 games, but I'm very pleased with the way some of our young players have stepped up."

Alderson did not rule out acquiring a reliever on Wednesday -- the final day a player can be obtained from outside the organization and be eligible for the postseason roster. Still, Alderson did not portray such a scenario as the likelihood.

"We're still working on it," he said. "We still have some things that are going on. I don't really expect that we'll be able to do anything significant. It's possible that we'll do something. But, you know, we've been happy with the young pitching as it's developed over the last week or 10 days. We'll have plenty of numbers.

"Really, at this point, it's a matter of evaluating and assessing what we have internally available to us versus what we think we can get, and what it would cost us in players. We have the players to make a deal. It's just a question of whether we think it's worthwhile."