Seth Lugo on track to resume throwing around Opening Day

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — New York Mets pitcher Seth Lugo is on track to resume throwing around Opening Day as the right-hander recovers from surgery Feb. 16 to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.

Lugo spoke for the first time since the operation with Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek. New York said Lugo needs about six weeks of recuperation following the surgery before he can throw. Then Lugo will have to work his arm into game shape, a process likely to take a month or more.

“Now it feels a lot better, feels pretty normal,” he said. “We’re easing into the rehab stuff and making sure we mark check off all the boxes and go about it the right way.”

New York said a bone spur broke during Lugo’s heightened workouts leading to spring training.

“The beginning of February, I woke up and my elbow was just swollen and I didn’t have much range, couldn’t flex or extend it. And then I did what I’d usually do for some swelling,” Lugo said. “After it didn’t go down, that’s when I called the training staff and said, `Hey, look, I got swelling in my elbow and I can’t get it out. What do we do from here?’ And then we got down here, had the MRI, and after the bone spurs, kind of sigh of relief, and got them removed. And here we are.”

He doesn’t think any one throw caused the bone spur.

“It caught me off guard because it was feeling fine, know there wasn’t an incident or a throw or anything where I noticed something. It just came out of nowhere,” he said. “Very relieved. Those few days where I didn’t know what was in there, you go through every thought in your head, and I’d say this was a pretty good scenario. And I was quite relieved after the MRI.”

Lugo said his ulnar collateral ligament looked good when it was checked at the time his bone spur was scanned. He did not make his first appearance in 2017 until June 11 after he returned from Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic team with a partially torn ligament that did not require surgery.

The 31-year-old Lugo spent the offseason focusing on endurance in case the Mets planned to use him as a starter, but he isn’t sure whether he will be in the rotation or bullpen when he is available.

Lugo was 3-4 with a 5.15 ERA in seven starts and nine relief appearances during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He moved into the rotation in mid-August to replace a faltering Steven Matz. Lugo was one of the most durable relievers in 2019, with a 2.70 ERA over 80 innings in 61 games.

Lugo agreed last month to a $2,925,000, one-year contract and is projected for now to be back in the bullpen as a setup man for closer Edwin Diaz.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.