Jason Vargas makes rehab start, no timeline yet for return

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New York Mets' Jason Vargas pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Sunday, May 5, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Jason Vargas was pulled after four innings in his last start on May 5 in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

TRENTON, N.J. -- Jason Vargas (hamstring) felt “good” after throwing 74 pitches over four innings in a rehab start with Double-A Binghamton on Sunday.

Vargas downplayed the initial sting from the injury that sent him to the injured list May 6, and does not yet have a timeline for a return to the Majors.

“It definitely kept me from doing what I needed to do, but I felt pretty good out there today,” he said. “I’ll probably see how things respond tomorrow and see where we’re at as a team, and kind of go from there.”

The Mets had a 75-80 pitch target set for Vargas, who last threw an up-and-down bullpen session Tuesday. He left his May 5 start in Milwaukee after four innings with mild hamstring tightness.

Vargas (1-2) holds a 5.92 ERA over seven appearances, six starts, so far this season. His inflated ERA is a product of a shaky start, in which he surrendered 10 runs in 6.1 total innings over his first three outings.

The 36-year-old rattled off three consecutive starts in which he allowed one run on three hits before his abbreviated outing against the Brewers.

Vargas struck out five of the first 12 batters he faced Sunday. He got ahead of Trenton outfielder Zack Zehner, 1-2, with two outs in the fourth but eventually fell behind and surrendered a homer on the ninth pitch.

Vargas missed twice with the fastball in the at-bat against Zehner. He struggled to command the pitch in the fifth and walked the final two batters he faced.

“I felt like I was getting a little sloppy there at the end,” he said. “I talked with [Binghamton pitching coach Jonathan Hurst] about that, that’s why we just kept throwing so many fastballs down and away there at the end, just to try and really focus on trying to stay together and finish up the work.”

Vargas’ pitch count has topped out at 89 this season, and he hasn’t gone longer than 5.1 innings in a start this season. His need for a rehab start will force the Mets to use a spot starter Monday against the Nationals.

Drew Gagnon is the likely candidate to get that start. Wilmer Font allowed five runs in 2.1 innings his last time out against Washington on Wednesday. Gagnon threw 2.2 scoreless frames in relief behind him, allowing just three hits.