Mets' Neil Walker to have season-ending back surgery

ByAdam Rubin ESPN logo
Thursday, September 1, 2016

NEW YORK -- New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.

Walker said the microdiscectomy procedure will require a three-month recovery time and has a high success rate. Walker contemplated trying to complete the season, but was strongly advised while seeking a third medical opinion on Wednesday that the disk condition would have worsened, resulting in additional leg weakness.

"It was a very difficult decision," Walker said Thursday afternoon. "There were a lot of factors that were involved -- the way the team was playing, the way I felt. I did everything I could. Twice I played a couple of days, tried to give myself a couple of days off, and the biggest issue with it was that it was hitting a nerve. I still can't feel my toe. That's caused just a chain reaction."

Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December when the Mets determined they did not wish to extend a multiyear offer to Daniel Murphy, Walker hit .282 with a career-high-matching 23 homers and 55 RBIs in 412 at-bats this season. He is eligible for free agency this offseason, but insisted that played no part in the timing of the surgery.

"That was the farthest thing from my mind. My thought process has always been to help the team on the field, do whatever I can to help the team," said Walker, who expressed receptiveness to re-signing with the Mets.

General manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins had expressed confidence as recently as Wednesday that Walker could play the remainder of the season with the disk issue as long as he received regular rest. The second and third medical opinions seemingly were more forceful in advocating immediate surgery than the initial recommendation from Mets doctors.

"After two or three eyes on the MRI, some of the best back specialists in the world, they've told me that the best course of action is to get it done now," Walker said. "The success rate of this is very high. It's something a lot of guys have gone through. So I feel very confident in my ability to return from this in good shape.

"Put it this way, I would have been playing probably at 60 percent," Walker added. "With the way my back felt, it wasn't the swinging from either side. It was below the waist. It was the sliding, the diving, the leg weakness. At this time of year, with the possibility of breaking up double plays, diving for balls, trying to score from first, I just didn't feel like it's the right thing for me to do, and to do to the team. And playing one day and taking a couple days off, or playing two days in a row and taking a day off, as much as I was willing to do that, after talking to the doctors, they felt like that was not a good thing to do."

Collins said he expects Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson primarily will handle second base minus Walker.

"Neil has played absolutely great," Collins said. "He had a little bit in the middle of the season where he struggled for a while. What he did early, he carried us in April and early May. Who would have expected all of the home runs? And then the way he's played lately. ... He had a great year for us. I sure hope that we get the opportunity to get him back."

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