PHILADELPHIA — Neil Walker learned a hard lesson about New York’s two baseball teams Thursday night. After the Yankees and Mets failed to conclude a deal for slugger Jay Bruce, the back-and-forth leaking of details put the Mets second baseman on the defense.
A Mets source claimed Friday that the Yankees had all but finalized a deal for Walker on July 31, but they pulled out of it. Reports said the Yankees blamed Walker’s medical records, but a Mets source said Friday that they believe the Yankees had another deal come through and used Walkers’ medicals as an excuse.
“I am confused as to why I am sitting here having to answer questions about my health, for something that didn’t happen,” Walker said. “I was healthy then, I am healthy now. My back is fine and at that point I was still doing rehab work for my hamstring, but I am healthy.”
Welcome to the petty rivalry between the two New York teams, where the number of backpages and which fan base “owns,” the town matter more in the higher offices than in the clubhouse. Mets GM Sandy Alderson had to defend his move to send Jay Bruce to Cleveland for a low-level pitching prospect Wednesday and not to the Yankees before Thursday’s game. He all but outright confirmed the deal for Walker was close in those comments and defended the Mets against accusations of dumping salary and being biased against dealing with the Yankees.
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The anonymous back and forth between sources in each organization, however, found an unnecessary victim in Walker.
Walker’s concern is heightened because he will be a free agent for the first time this winter and whispers and rumors about “bad medical reports,” can be a hang up for teams looking to sign a 31-year old second baseman. That was why Carlos Gomez’s agent, Scott Boras, was so rightly infuriated with the Mets after it leaked that Sandy Alderson had nixed a deal in July of 2015 for the outfielder because of medical issues.
Walker said he has dealt with his health issues and feels good.
He had season-ending back surgery last September to repair a herniated disc. So, Walker, who returned to the Mets on a one-year $ 17.1 million qualifying offer, was out to prove that he was healthy this season. He has said the back has given him no issues.
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He did miss 36 games this season after partially tearing his left hamstring in June. He still had some rehab work to do with the hamstring when he returned July 28, but said that he feels like it is strong now.
“I feel good,” Walker said. “It’s frustrating to have to defend myself against something that isn’t true.”
Walker said he’s not “upset,” with the Mets, but said that he wishes he didn’t have to defend himself against rumors.
The best way for him to get past that and into the free agent market would be for him to prove it on the field now. He went into Friday night’s game hitting .261 with 10 homers and 35 RBI.
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He has struggled since returning from the DL,, but Thursday night, he broke out with a four-hit game, including a home run in the Mets 10-0 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
“I am feeling good at the plate,” Walker said. “I feel like it’s coming.”
SORE BUT DETERMINED
Jacob deGrom, who left Thursday night’s game after taking a line drive off the back of his upper right arm, was sore, but determined to try everything to make his next start.
I”t’s swelled up like we thought. He’s had treatment on it already, played a little catch to get the blood flowing little bit,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Hopefully we’re still on track for his start in New York, but the closer we get, we’ll see where he’s at.”
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DeGrom did some light toss Friday afternoon and then was out shagging fly balls in batting practice as would be normal for him.
CABRERA BANGED UP
Asdrubal Cabrera, who last played on Tuesday, has been nursing a sore left hand. The infielder jammed it Tuesday night, according to Collins.
“The other day he made that slide into third and jammed his left hand. He feels better, said he can play today. If we need him, he’s there,” Collins said. “But he’s had the hand issue.”
Friday was the first time since Tuesday Cabrera had taken batting practice on the field.
The veteran is one of the player the Mets would still like to move in a trade. He is hitting .28 with nine homers and 34 RBI. He has had two stints on the disabled list with what the team said was a sprained left thumb.
WHEELS SLOWLY TURNING
Zack Wheeler threw about 25 pitches on flat ground Friday, the first time he has thrown since he was shut down with what the team said is a stress reaction in his right biceps.
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