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Mets’ Starling Marte and Bryce Montes de Oca injured in 10-4 loss to Rays

After three relatively quiet weeks, the virus of injuries has made its way to Mets camp.

On Sunday afternoon, right-hander Bryce Montes de Oca, a bullpen hopeful, was pulled from his outing against the Tampa Bay Rays at Clover Park with a forearm strain. The 26-year-old had been throwing 100 MPH in his previous outings and was struggling with his control and speed, which dropped by about three ticks. Montes de Oca threw 27 pitches, but only 11 strikes, and allowed three earned runs, the first runs allowed by the 24-year-old in three Grapefruit League appearances.

Outfielder Starling Marte was also hit in the head by a pitch in the Mets’ 10-4 loss, but tested negative for a concussion. He will be re-evaluated on Monday.

Montes de Oca, a top pitching prospect, will undergo a diagnosis on Monday. He previously had Tommy John surgery in high school, which discouraged several teams from drafting the big right-hander. Standing at 6-foot-7 with the ability to throw triple-digit cutters with a devastating break, Montes de Oca should have been a top draft pick out of Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2014. Instead , he was drafted in the 14th round by the Chicago White Sox and instead went to Missouri to play college baseball. The Washington Nationals took him in the 17th round three years later, but he returned to Mizzou. Finally, the Mets took him in the ninth round in 2018.

Injuries continued to plague him throughout college in the minor leagues. Montes de Oca underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery in college in 2017 and was unable to start his professional career until 2021 due to surgeries on his arm, shoulder, back and knee in 2018-2019. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the minor league season in 2020, and Montes de Oca was finally able to recover.

In 2021, he posted a photo of himself pitching for High-A Brooklyn with the caption, “This is so much more fun than rehab.” He made his major league debut last season, appearing in three games before suffering a hamstring injury.

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Most of the injuries have been minor, with the exception of left-handed starter Jose Quintana, who has a small stress fracture in his left fifth rib. Right-hander Kodai Senga missed a start last week with tendonitis in his right middle finger. Like Quintana, who was set to play for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic, left-handed reliever Brooks Raley relinquished his spot on Team USA with a minor hamstring strain.

Manager Buck Showalter said removing Senga was a precaution and he probably would have played if it had been the regular season, but the Mets have been very cautious with the Japanese starter as he transitions to North America.

However, it goes to show that the old adage about never having enough pitching still holds true.

Ronny Mauricio hit his fourth home run of the Grapefruit League season. It was another monster pitch for Mauricio, who caught a fastball from right-hander Elvin Rodriguez 452 feet over the wall. The shortstop is hitting .304 with a 1.230 OPS this spring.

Danny Mendick, who is hoping to make the team after missing much of last season with the Chicago White Sox due to ACL surgery, hit his first double of the spring.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco made his third start and allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and struck out four in three innings. Two of those hits were home runs.

Carrasco pitched to Francisco Alvarez, the Mets’ top organizational prospect, who has been slow to get into games at catcher and the club is wary of his surgically repaired ankle.

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