While the New York Mets’ pitching staff has slowly taken shape this spring, there are some sizable matters that still need to be addressed with Opening Day less than one week away.
In the bullpen, closer Jeurys Familia is expected to receive a suspension from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred due to his domestic violence case. However, the presence of set-up man Addison Reed should soften the blow of his absence.
It’s not as easy to deduce how the team’s starting rotation will look, though.
Left-hander Steven Matz, who has been plagued by health issues throughout his professional career, was scratched from his spring training start on Sunday due to elbow discomfort.
While Mets doctors told David Lennon of Newsday that the ligament in his elbow which forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2010 is fine, general manager Sandy Alderson added that “it’s worrisome” that the 25-year-old has been sidelined so often.
Matz threw a 55-pitch flat-ground session on Monday and was able to complete it, but his mechanics needed polishing and his regular-season status remains unknown, per Lennon.
Meanwhile, Robert Gsellman was awarded the No. 4 spot in the rotation behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
The 23-year-old was one of the arms that kept the rotation afloat in 2016 after Matz, Harvey and deGrom all went down with season-ending injuries. He posted a 4-2 record with a 2.42 ERA in seven starts after being promoted from Double-A.
He put together a strong showing in spring training as well with a 1.56 ERA and nine strikeouts in 17.1 innings of work to secure his status with the big club.
That leaves two available arms in Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo competing for one final rotation spot.
Like Gsellman, Lugo was one of the arms called upon to provide support to the bottom end of the rotation. He performed just as admirably behind a 5-2 record and 2.67 ERA.
Wheeler on the other hand saw his promising, young career delayed for two full years after undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the start of the 2015 season.
Both he and Lugo had one final chance to impress the powers that be on Monday as they started each of the Mets’ split-squad games against the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals.
For Wheeler, it looked like his electric stuff was back after experiencing a rough start in which he allowed seven runs in his first 7.1 innings during the spring.
He shut the Marlins out over five innings on Monday and allowed just two hits behind a fastball that topped out at 97 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, Lugo had some issues against a strong Nationals lineup, allowing a pair of home runs to Trea Turner and another to Bryce Harper. He gave up four runs on eight hits over 4.1 innings in an anticlimactic return from his work with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
It’s plausible that the Mets could still go with Lugo to start the season in order to ensure that Wheeler’s arm is strong enough for the long haul. The New York Post’s Mike Puma reported that Mets management would not meet until Tuesday to “hammer out the roster.”
With the Mets’ first 32 games of the season coming against National League East opponents, it’s imperative that the rotation is clicking on all cylinders from top to bottom or they could be looking at an early deficit by May.