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Mets infield prospect Mauricio tears right ACL in winter league

Ronny Mauricio New York Mets Ronny Mauricio - The Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Mets infielder Ronny Mauricio tore a ligament in his right knee during a Dominican Winter League game and will need surgery, an injury that will sideline him for a significant part of the 2024 season.

The 22-year-old Mauricio, who made his major league debut Sept. 1, was hurt while playing for Tigres del Licey on Sunday night. Mauricio was on first base and started for second in what appeared to be a stolen base attempt, then stopped, fell and grabbed his right knee. He walked gingerly off the field.

New York said Tuesday that imaging revealed a torn ACL and added that a timeline for his return will be determined after the operation.

It's the second time in nine months an important Mets player has been sidelined by a serious knee injury sustained during the offseason. Star closer Edwin Díaz tore the patella tendon in his right knee during a victory celebration after closing Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic on March 15.

Díaz had surgery and missed the entire 2023 season as the Mets flopped to a fourth-place finish in the NL East at 75-87 despite the highest payroll in baseball history. He's expected to return fully healthy in 2024.

A heralded prospect, Mauricio hit .248 with two homers, nine RBIs, seven steals and a .643 OPS for the Mets in September after batting .292 with 23 homers, 71 RBIs and 24 steals for Triple-A Syracuse. The switch-hitter was batting .433 (13 for 40) in seven games for Licey this offseason.

Mauricio was expected to compete in spring training for regular playing time next season at second base, third base or both. He made 21 starts at second for the Mets last season and five at third.

Mauricio is a natural shortstop but he's blocked at that spot in New York by star slugger Francisco Lindor, so the Mets began moving Mauricio to other positions in the upper minors.

Fellow youngsters Brett Baty and Mark Vientos remain likely to compete for the third base job this spring. New York can play versatile Jeff McNeil at second, which would open room in the outfield.

The team also signed veteran utility infielder Joey Wendle to a one-year contract this offseason, adding depth.