FORT MYERS, Fla. – Infielder T.J. Rivera’s abbreviated journey with the Mets came to an end on Saturday.
The Mets released Rivera prior to their matchup against the Red Sox amid the 30-year-old’s bumpy recovery from Tommy John surgery.
This spring, Rivera felt discomfort in his elbow and manager Mickey Callaway said he “was having trouble getting over the hump” from the prolonged elbow injury. Rivera last appeared in a major league game on July 26, 2017 against the Padres in San Diego.
“This kid is one of the most quality kids you could ever ask for,” Callaway said. “He’s diligent about his work and to see him not be able to overcome that to this point, to give himself a chance for us to look at him … It’s tough for the kid because he’s one of the best.”
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen cited an infield logjam at both the major and minor league levels as the reason the Mets released Rivera.
“With the depth we created in the infield, we have tough decision to make not only on our major league roster, but also on our Triple-A roster,” Van Wagenen said. “With just a couple weeks to go in camp, T.J. remained behind several players on the depth chart at his positions.”
Rivera has experience playing all infield positions except shortstop, with the majority of his major-league games at third base. With Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Peter Alonso, Andres Gimenez, Danny Espinosa, Dilson Herrrera – and eventually, Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier – continually getting spring reps in the infield, the Mets had no space for Rivera in the dirt.
He was working out at the Mets facility throughout camp and looked to be in good physical shape. After working out during batting practice on Thursday, players retreated into the Mets clubhouse to grab lunch. Rivera, though, stayed on the field with a coach and practiced taking grounders at second base.
Rivera sustained a partial tear to his ulnar collateral ligament in July of 2017. At first, then-manager Terry Collins and the Mets had hoped Rivera could avoid season-ending surgery. Rivera received a platelet-rich plasma injection, but he opted to go ahead with the surgery in September of that year.
During the offseason last year, Rivera was cleared to begin throwing five months removed from the surgery. But the Mets placed him on the 60-day disabled list during spring training and said Rivera would be sidelined until at least July.
Finally, Rivera began rehabbing with High-A St. Lucie and went 4-for-19 across five games in July. He moved his rehab to Triple-A Las Vegas and was expected to join the majors after the All-Star break. Another impediment set Rivera back when he was diagnosed with a sprain in his elbow in July of last year.
The infielder was again ruled out for the remainder of the 2018 season in September.
Rivera worked hard to recover as quickly as his elbow allowed throughout his rehab from surgery. But Van Wagenen’s adapted approach of adding depth at numerous positions left the Mets with no choice but to send Rivera packing. The infielder will hope to find a home elsewhere.