Some Thoughts With a Week Until Opener, er, Opening Day
Ramblings of a madman, or whatever...
Slowly but surely, we are getting there, friends. One week from today we’ll be knee-deep in our respective Opening Day rituals, waiting for yet another season of New York Mets baseball to begin.
Love to see it.
As is par for the course, there are still a handful of questions swirling around this roster as camp is set to break from Port St. Lucie and head north for the summer.
Positional settlings, bench spots decided, bullpen openings closed, roster shuffling and dealing. It’s all as common as birds chirping this time of year. The Mets are not immune to the wonders of springtime, either.
On Wednesday, Mets manager Luis Rojas brought up Luis Guillorme’s numbers against their scheduled Opening Day counterpart for the Nationals, Max Scherzer (3-for-6, two doubles), alluding to Guillorme as being an option to start versus the Hall of Fame-bound right-hander.
That shouldn’t necessarily be perceived as a slight to J.D. Davis, a player whose progress Rojas has been quite vocal about this spring. If anything, the ability to field two starting-caliber players at one position is a luxury. And one the Mets haven’t enjoyed in some time.
Realistically, there could be no “starting third baseman” for this team in 2021. Guillorme and Davis both have their merits (Davis’ offensive upside and Guillorme’s well-rounded game, including but not limited to his sterling, extremely versatile glove).
The roster depth that this front office focused on and achieved this winter should afford Rojas & Co. the ability to match-up against any and all scenarios they might come across, which brings us to the starting rotation.
On Wednesday, the Mets optioned right-handers Jordan Yamamoto (one earned run, five strikeouts, four walks over 8.1 innings this spring) and Corey Oswalt (six earned on seven hits, nine strikeouts, one walk over 8.2 innings; four innings of one-run ball versus St. Louis on Wednesday) to Triple-A Syracuse.
Maybe a bit surprising considering the praise Rojas has heaped on Oswalt during camp — Yamamoto even got a nickname this spring; Yammy, which is amazing — but these are the tough decisions that must be made when there are too many capable players to fit on an active roster.
Good problem to have.
Though, assuming that’s how things shake out may be premature. Both Peterson and Lucchesi will certainly be in the mix, and both deservedly so. But the Mets have options as to how they might employ this cache of viable arms.
Luis Rojas has alluded many times this spring to the possibility of the Mets using an opener. Or at least he hasn’t ruled it out.
Following his 3.1 innings of work in Monday’s loss to the Astros, even Lucchesi appeared willing to open if the job was created, and his career numbers support that possible shift.
Lucchesi’s career lines during his first (3.50 ERA, .235/.295/.401) and second (3.56 ERA, .233/.288/.406) times through the batting order are more than sufficient and gleam in comparison to the hurdles he’s faced the third time through (7.58 ERA, .312/.395/.548).
Without Seth Lugo (bone spur) among the relief corps for the time being and the ideal versions of Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia nowhere to be found, having an opener could relieve some of the pressures of the Mets being short-handed to start the year.
If an opener can take the Mets through two or three, a starter or long-man brings things into the seventh or eighth, and Trevor May, Miguel Castro, and Edwin Diaz carry it home, that’s one way to get over the hump until Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard, and Lugo all return.
Yamamoto, Robert Gsellman, Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz, Jerad Eickhoff, any of these guys could potentially fill a gap in this scenario, whether as openers themselves or simply as bridges to the bullpen.
It’s entirely plausible Yamamoto or Oswalt still find themselves heading to D.C. with the team next week. Cookies yet to crumble, still, for sure.
Playing a full 162-game schedule after a 60-game campaign last season could be hazardous to any pitching staff, so keeping the bullpen and rotation fresh should be paramount this season.
Employing an opener could assist in all of those efforts. Something to keep an eye on.
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