NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins recently referred to them as "the cavalry" -- two pitchers who could rejoin the Mets this month, offering some tonic for their ailing rotation.
Steven Matz and Seth Lugo took significant steps toward making good on that promise Thursday, appearing in their first Minor League rehab games for Class A Advanced St. Lucie. Matz went three innings, allowing two hits and one earned run with two walks and three strikeouts. He threw 53 pitches. Lugo tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He threw 42 pitches. The Mets hope both pitchers can build up enough arm strength to rejoin the club by the end of May.
Also, Travis d'Arnaud went 2-for-4 with two singles in seven innings behind the plate for St. Lucie.
Matz opened the year on the disabled list with what he called a flexor strain in his left forearm, though the Mets dispute that diagnosis. Officially, Matz has been on the 10-day DL since April 2 due to left elbow inflammation, but even general manager Sandy Alderson could not pinpoint a diagnosis when asked last month.
Specifics aside, elbow and shoulder health has been a major issue for Matz ever since the Mets drafted him in the second round in 2009. Now less than two weeks shy of his 26th birthday, Matz has appeared in only 28 big league games, going 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA.
Unlike Matz, a former top prospect, Lugo rose from 34th-round obscurity to debut with the Mets last summer. After going 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA in eight starts and nine relief appearances, Lugo entered Spring Training as a potential rotation option for the Mets. But he learned at the end of camp that he had a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow.
So far, Lugo has managed to avoid Tommy John surgery, though that remains a possibility if his recovery stalls.
Without Matz, Lugo and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets have struggled to build a cohesive rotation. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Robert Gsellman have all scuffled, with Gsellman's issues so deep-rooted that the Mets have temporarily sent him to the bullpen. Zack Wheeler has largely been successful in his first two months back from Tommy John surgery, but has struggled to pitch deep into games. The Mets recently filled out their rotation with left-hander Tommy Milone, a waiver claim from the Brewers who owns a 5.91 ERA through two starts.
d'Arnaud has been sidelined since May 2 with a bone bruise in his right wrist. He was batting just .203 with four home runs in 66 plate appearances prior to his injury; in d'Arnaud's absence, backup Rene Rivera has broken out with a career-best 10-game hitting streak, batting .410 with two home runs over that stretch. Both d'Arnaud and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who may not need any rehab games, could return to the Mets next week.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.