José Quintana has a lesion on a rib

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — After more than a week of tests, medical opinions and doctor visits, including a period during which Jose Quintana feared a life-changing diagnosis, the Mets have both an answer and a starter plan of action to deal with their ill condition.

Quintana will undergo a bone transplant to repair a stress fracture in his rib and will not return to the Majors until at least July, general manager Billy Eppler said on Tuesday. The southpaw has a benign lesion on his rib, which became the main factor behind his decision to pursue surgery instead of a more conservative route. While Quintana’s absence will weaken the Mets roster, team officials are relieved the news isn’t worse.

“It took on a human element,” Eppler said. “It was bigger than baseball. José has our support and everything he needs, but I’m really grateful that we are at least here, unlike one of the other potential results.

A best-case scenario for Quintana, according to Eppler, would be a return to the Majors after July 1. He is expected to undergo the operation on Friday.

“It was a situation that could have turned out badly for him and his family,” the general manager said. “I will always put that at the forefront of everything.”

After Quintana left a March 5 game due to discomfort in his abdomen, the Mets diagnosed him with a fifth rib stress fracture on his left side. A team orthopedic surgeon later discovered a lesion in the area, prompting the Mets to send Quintana to New York for a biopsy and further testing. Although the biopsy revealed nothing malignant, the medical recommendation shifted to surgery rather than a more conservative rest and treatment approach.

A bone graft gives Quintana a clearer and healthier long-term prognosis. He made the decision Tuesday morning in consultation with Eppler, manager Buck Showalter, his agent and team medical staff.

“It’s quite a complex surgery,” Eppler said. “Every time you do a bone graft, it’s going to hurt. That’s why it’s hard to pin down an exact timeline, but in all the timelines we penciled in, they all went past July 1.

Quintana’s exact date of return will depend on how quickly he can return to physical activity, and possibly baseball activities, after his surgery. Even once he is healthy, Quintana will need at least a month of acceleration to return as a starter.

“We think we have our arms around him and we have a good approach,” Showalter said. “I think he appreciates the thoroughness of this one.”

Quintana was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

From 2013 to 2019, Quintana was one of MLB’s most enduring starters, averaging 32 starts and 192 2/3 innings per season. He made three trips to IL over the next two years due to thumb, lat and shoulder injuries, but recovered last season to provide a career year between the Pirates and Cardinals . It was enough for the Mets to sign him to a two-year, $26 million contract to become their fourth starter.

As long as Quintana is out, the Mets will rely on someone else in the rotation alongside Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and Carlos Carrasco. The two most obvious options on the team are David Peterson and Tylor Megill, who combined to make 28 starts last season and both had strong starts this spring.

Peterson pitched four scoreless innings Tuesday in a 5-0 loss to the Nationals and hasn’t allowed a hit in eight Grapefruit League innings. Megill pitched four scoreless innings Monday against the Marlins to reduce his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.08.

“It sucks to see one of your teammates go down with this, and I hope he comes back as soon as possible,” Peterson said. “But I think that’s what has always been the case, is that the front office and the coaching staff wanted to have starting throwing depth, and they made that a priority. That’s so there it is useful to have the choice between guys.

Options further down the list include Joey Lucchesi, Elieser Hernandez and Jose Butto. The importance of each of them has increased now that Quintana will miss a lot of time.

“There’s a reason we go out and try to build as much depth as possible,” Eppler said. “I think there are eight, nine, 10 starting pitchers on our depth chart who have pitched at the Major League level. This is the reason for the depth. You’re trying to navigate a season of 162 games over what, 183 days? You want to be positioned to navigate this whole course.

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