WASHINGTON -- Barely a year removed from establishing himself among the game's top pitching prospects, reliever Jeurys Familia will undergo surgery Wednesday to remove "bone spurs and loose bodies from his right elbow," according to a release. General manager Sandy Alderson estimated that Familia can begin throwing again in "six to eight weeks."
Familia, 23, posted a 3.48 ERA in eight games this season, before the Mets placed him on the disabled list May 12 with right biceps tendinitis. He converted to relief work full-time late last summer, after producing a 4.73 ERA in 28 starts for Triple-A Buffalo.
Earlier that year, Familia ranked 90th on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, joining Zack Wheeler (28th) and Matt Harvey (38th) in one of baseball's most highly touted starting pitching trios. But while Harvey has dazzled as a big leaguer and Wheeler has developed into a top-10 prospect, Familia has yet to live up to expectations.
Still, the Mets believed they found a niche for Familia at the back end of the bullpen, where his lack of a reliable third pitch was not as glaring. Familia took to the role, showcasing a mid-90s fastball and even earning a save earlier this season in Atlanta, before elbow trouble derailed him.
Though Alderson wrote in a text message that "six to eight weeks would be a good estimate" for Familia to resume throwing, the Mets offered no official timetable for his return. When former closer Frank Francisco underwent a similar procedure in mid-December, the Mets estimated he would begin a throwing program within six weeks. Francisco was indeed throwing by February, but later suffered a series of setbacks and is currently shut down.
Collins tempering expectations for Wheeler
WASHINGTON -- Potentially less than two weeks away from Zack Wheeler's big league debut, Mets manager Terry Collins made it clear that Wheeler alone will not transform the Mets.
"I hope everybody understands if and when this guy comes, he's not going to be the savior," Collins said of Wheeler, who is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas. "There's a lot of pieces that have to work. One guy is not going to turn this around for us. It takes 25."
Wheeler, who is next scheduled to pitch for Vegas on Friday, could be approaching his final start in the Minors. Friday's outing may be his last if the Mets decide to debut him next week against either the Cardinals or the Cubs, or his second-to-last if Wheeler instead debuts the following week in Atlanta.
Nothing is set in stone, which Collins made clear. Which is why he refuses to think about the roster implications once Wheeler, the Mets' top pitching prospect as ranked by MLB.com, arrives.
"Everybody expects this to happen, and I don't know when it's going to happen," Collins said. "When the time comes, it'll probably be if someone's not pitching well, they've got to be a candidate to come out. If everybody's pitching good and this kid comes, then we'll have to make a decision on who would fit best someplace else."
When Wheeler does make it to the big leagues, Collins said he has no idea if the expectations that Matt Harvey inadvertently created -- namely, the notion that he will be great immediately -- will affect Wheeler positively or negatively. Collins does know that he purposely placed Harvey and Wheeler's lockers next to each other in Spring Training, hoping the elder pitcher might be able to dispense some advice.
"Did he?" Collins asked. "I have no idea."
The Mets should find out sooner rather than later.
"Certainly, everybody's excited because he's a prospect, and you look down the road with that arm and that stuff and he could be a good pitcher for a long time," Collins said. "But there's a lot of adjustments there that have to be made by him, as Matt made them."
• Left-hander Jon Niese will throw his anticipated side session Wednesday afternoon, which will determine whether he will be able to make his next start Saturday against the Marlins. Niese has not thrown since the Mets shut him down last week with a bout of left biceps tendinitis.
• Manager Terry Collins said that outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is "back on the radar" after hitting his fourth home run in 10 games Tuesday for Triple-A Las Vegas. Mired in a slump for much of his early time in Nevada, Nieuwenhuis has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, and could ultimately earn a promotion to replace one of the lesser-used outfielders on New York's roster.