HOUSTON -- One injury, suffered last Tuesday in Florida, sparked a chain reaction that has completely changed the complexion of the Mets' pitching staff. Billy Wagner's stiff left forearm created a need for another bullpen arm, a hole the Mets filled by selecting the contract of Double-A closer Eddie Kunz from Binghamton. To make room, they placed John Maine on the disabled list and pushed his next start back to mid-August.
"When you lose Billy Wagner," manager Jerry Manuel said, "that's very critical."
Though Maine is the one on the disabled list, Wagner's injury is the more problematic of the two. He first felt it on Tuesday, but after three days of inactivity in the interim, his left elbow stiffness had begun to subside. But when Wagner entered Saturday night's game against the Astros in a save situation, he felt the pain once again.
Wagner will have an MRI on the forearm this Tuesday in New York, and he isn't expected to pitch again before at least Wednesday.
"The pitches [Saturday] night didn't have much finish on them," Wagner said. "And when you don't have finish, it's like throwing batting practice."
Because the Mets needed another bullpen arm to make up for Wagner's absence, and because they weren't willing to put him on the disabled list without knowing the extent of his injury, the team instead placed Maine on the disabled list retroactive to July 29.
Such a roster move wouldn't have been necessary had Wagner been able to pitch, but given the pain in his left forearm -- "It hurts," he said bluntly -- the Mets aren't sure when he might be able to return. Wagner's velocity is fine, but his location was off during Saturday evening's loss to the Astros.
Wagner has 27 saves and a 2.30 ERA this season, but he blew his seventh save when he allowed three hits, a walk and two runs on Saturday.
"It was making progress," Wagner said of his arm. "It was feeling better. But then when I had to go back out there [Saturday] night, it got to the point where I couldn't finish the pitches. I couldn't locate the ball inside, because I just couldn't get out there. It's not doing us any good."
With Aaron Heilman unavailable to pitch on Sunday afternoon, Manuel entered Sunday's game prepared to call on either Kunz or Duaner Sanchez in a save situation. But what's clear is that Wagner won't be saving games for some time. Wagner said that although he was unsure if a stint on the disabled list would ultimately be necessary, he was not about to take any more risks by pitching through pain.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.