James McCann has already requested the use of Dominic Smith’s rarely-used catcher’s mitt for his healthy right hand.
McCann won’t be throwing with his left hand, but he does plan to keep sharp in his squatting position while catching with his right hand as he works back from surgery to address a broken left hamate bone that came as a surprise to him on Friday. The Mets catcher is expected to undergo the procedure early this week, and while it comes with a six-week timetable on average for a return to play, McCann wants to do everything in his power to get back sooner.
“Obviously I’m shooting for quicker than that,” McCann said Saturday before the Mets hosted the Mariners at Citi Field.
McCann said he can do just about everything besides swinging a bat with two hands, so he will continue to throw, lift and catch right-handed from a pitching machine — with the velocity turned down a little as he gets used to receiving with his off-hand — during the road back from surgery.
“Obviously, post-op there’ll be a few days where I have to recover, but the plan is to stay in as close to baseball shape as possible,” McCann said.
The specifics of exactly how the injury occurred are a little less clear.
McCann noted that broken hamate bones typically happen on one swing and batters immediately lose strength in their hand. But his case was different.
The 31-year-old said he had been dealing with general wrist soreness for “several weeks,” but usually only at times, either in the batting cage or during batting practice.
“But once the game started, [with] the adrenaline, it was there but it wasn’t prohibitive,” McCann said. “When I first said something was on Tuesday, when I could feel it when I was catching. That’s when I said it was something I needed to voice. If I can feel it while catching a baseball, that’s something I need to say.”
Still, he didn’t expect the end result. The Mets gave him Wednesday and Thursday off, with Tomas Nido catching, but he did not improve as expected, leading to Friday’s X-ray, which revealed the broken bone.
“It caught me off guard, for sure,” McCann said. “It’s definitely not what I was expecting. Especially the hamate, to this day I still pass the strength test. It’s something we had kind of written off as far as being a thing.
“I don’t know when it happened. The doctor said I’ve been dealing with it for a while. It finally just got to the point where the pain tolerance, I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
McCann said the timing of the injury — or the pain becoming enough to sideline him — was especially frustrating given the way he has been playing of late. His defense has been strong all season, but after starting the year batting 4-for-32 (.125) with a .487 OPS over his first 12 games, he was showing signs of improvement over his last nine games by batting 7-for-24 (.292) with a .641 OPS.
“Especially after a short spring training, [when] I missed time with my back [tightness],” McCann said. “I finally had gotten to a point where I felt like I was comfortable and things were starting to click. It’s just another setback. But it’s something I’ll deal with and we’ll get through.”
McCann said he would have preferred to undergo the surgery as early as Friday, so he could begin his recovery clock as soon as possible, but expects to have it in the coming days.