“This is a huge gamble by the Mets – I think it will be the biggest risk they’ll take this year. If it pays off, it will pay off great, but if this doesn’t work – this will be looked at as the moments the Mets realized whatever the excuse is going to be. This is the decision that will define 2020.”
Those are the words of Maggie Gray on Thursday morning on the Moose & Maggie Show, regarding the Mets’ decision to move Seth Lugo into the starting rotation and have him start Thursday’s game instead of struggling Steven Matz.
Just 27 games into the season, Lugo will become the ninth different Mets pitcher to start a game, a total that doesn’t count Noah Syndergaard or Marcus Stroman, their presumed No. 2 and No. 3 starters going into the original iteration of Spring Training.
Six months later, what was supposed to be a huge strength and source of depth is now a pool so shallow that Lugo is the second nominal reliever to become a starter – but with Syndergaard and Stroman out for the season, David Peterson and Michael Wacha on the injured list, and Matz struggling, these types of moves are their only choice right now in Maggie’s eyes.
“This is, without a doubt, the desperation move – I don’t know if they have another move, so they have to make it,” Maggie said, “and this is going to decide whether the Mets will hold and be a contender, or fall off. You are removing such a huge piece from your bullpen, and have been so reluctant to do it, but you understand why they have to do it – Steven Matz can’t start a game right now.”
Matz and his 9.00 ERA are headed to the bullpen, a move not officially announced until after Wednesday’s game but often foreshadowed, even up to manager Luis Rojas’ weekly appearance with Joe & Evan late Wednesday afternoon when the skipper was noncommittal to Thursday’s starter.
The lateral move, though, still creates a problem in the eyes of Maggie’s midday partner, Marc Malusis.
“With the Peterson injury, don’t they need another starter? So we’re looking at Walker Lockett or (Corey) Oswalt as their No. 5 starter?” Moose asked.
Indeed, as the Mets’ rotation as of right now ostensibly consists of Lugo, Oswalt, Robert Gsellman, and Rick Porcello behind Jacob deGrom, with Matz in the bullpen and Lockett in limbo on the active roster.
Still, to Maggie’s point, Lugo has been one of the Mets’ best relievers this year, posting a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings, and would be a boost if he can maintain that production as he stretches out – something Moose noted may be a quick process, even though Lugo’s longest outing of the year, 30 pitches, was his first.
“I’ll be curious to see exactly the amount of pitches Lugo will have. It can’t just be two innings, it just can’t, because then it makes little to no sense whatsoever to make the move,” Malusis said. “But when we talked to Ron Darling about it back after the Stroman injury, he said he didn’t think it would take more than a week to get Lugo’s arm to where he could give a representative start.”
Either way, though, it still presents a problem once Lugo is done.
“I think Lugo is the second-best pitcher on this team and should’ve been in the rotation weeks ago,” Malusis said, “but when you look at that bullpen now…where exactly are you going to go to get outs when you don’t know what Lugo, and Gsellman, can give you? I get they needed to make this move, but it’s a curious time.”
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