After last year’s debacle of a season, the New York Mets are trying to form a new plan for their starting rotation in 2018. The strategy begins this week in Spring Training action. New York is going to double up on starters in Wednesday’s game, beginning the outing with Matt Harvey on the mound and relieving him with Zack Wheeler.
Wheeler started this past Friday, placing him on standard rest, while this game will be Harvey’s first appearance of the spring. It is a tryout of sorts for both men. The Mets are suddenly flush with starting pitchers after losing so many to injury last year. There are at least eight guys battling for a spot in the rotation this year, including both Wheeler and Harvey.
Through front office sources, the team has hinted that Harvey has a spot sewn up unless he does something to lose it. On the other hand, Wheeler’s immediate future could be in the bullpen. The Mets, as with lots of MLB teams, are hesitant to use a six-man rotation, as it pushes everyone’s rest off normal pacing. The team also hasn’t considered doing the doubling-up of starters in a real game.
The piggybacking of starters is something that has been discussed league-wide, though no one outside of Colorado has seriously considered it. What the strategy does is limit pitchers to two times through a batting order while not blowing through a bullpen. Of course, a team would need at least eight viable starters to pull this off, and no one keeps that level of depth for long.
Instead, the Mets will likely run with a rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas, and Harvey. Along with Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman will be fighting for spots come April.
Having this level of depth is a good thing to begin the year, but New York would be better served with more reliable options. Syndergaard, Matz, Harvey, and Wheeler are all major health risks. Even deGrom has been limited to fewer than 25 starts in two of his four seasons in the majors. The best laid plans are usually destroyed by trips to the disabled list. Even still, NY is correctly trying things out in the spring.