The Rocky Road Ahead for the New York Mets in 2009

Andrew BailerContributor IJune 5, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 31:  J.J. Putz #22 of the New York Mets pitches against the Florida Marlins during their game on May 31, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

If there is to be any kind of a scapegoat in the Mets' recent three-game losing streak in a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, it would have to be the number of injuries the team has sustained over the past few weeks.

With reliever J.J. Putz allowing four runs and blowing the Mets' lead in Monday night's game in an eventual 8-5 loss to the Pirates, many fans including myself thought Putz was experiencing a mechanical problem, but apparently the issue is an elbow injury.

Putz has seen his ERA climb to 5.22 over his last three starts as he allowed eight runs and nine hits over just 1 1/3 innings of work, which is absolutely atrocious for a guy who recorded 40 saves with a 1.38 ERA as the Mariners' closer last season.

New York Manager Jerry Manuel tried pitching Putz yesterday as the Mets were already trailing the Pirates by a significant deficit in an eventual 11-6 loss to Pittsburgh. Even in this situation, with the game not on the line and no pressure on Putz, he struggled to get batters out, as he gave up two singles and a triple during an appearance in the seventh inning.

Putz will join Mets' shortstop Jose Reyes on the disabled list. Reyes suffered a setback in his rehabilitation starts in Florida by tearing his hamstring. Reyes was originally placed on the D.L. on May 21 for tendinitis in his right calf, but he will now have to undergo treatment for his hamstring, presumably keeping him out of the Mets' lineup for much longer than initially expected.

With Carlos Delgado out at least another eight or nine weeks after undergoing hip surgery on May 19, the Mets appear to be fielding a lineup that is more a lineup of replacements and bench players.

According to Mike Francesa of WFAN-660 AM, a sports radio station in New York, the Mets expect Reyes to be out for 14 to 16 days, and Putz will undergo elbow surgery that will keep him out for eight to 10 weeks.

Obviously, the situation for the Mets looks dire right now, and things are only going to get worse for this injury laden team, who are now 28-24 and four games behind the Phillies in the loss column for the lead in the National League East.

Right now, the Mets cannot afford to fall further and further behind, especially considering their upcoming schedule, which includes three games at home against Philadelphia next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and then a weekend series at Yankee Stadium Friday through Sunday.

This is going to be a definite test to a Mets' lineup that has not gotten the production it needs to win ballgames and has certainly missed Delgado's presence in the cleanup spot.

First, New York is in Washington for a three-game series with the Nationals, the worst team in baseball. However, if guys like David Wright, who has been in the midst of a terrible slump, don't start to turn things around, the Mets will not stand much of a chance against any team they face.

Last, New York cannot expect much more production than it has already got out of Gary Sheffield, and if the bullpen doesn't heal from its wounds, the Mets may not even get out of Washington with a victory.