Latest on battle for Mets' open rotation jobs

March 19th, 2021

Carlos Carrasco’s hamstring injury, which should keep him out until late April or May, leaves the Mets with three starting pitchers under guaranteed contract. That trio -- Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker -- will form the core of the team’s Opening Day rotation.

On paper, it also leaves the Mets with two open spots for a host of others. Manager Luis Rojas hinted strongly on Friday that the Mets could lean on openers or other strategies to mitigate the loss of Carrasco, but the Mets’ Opening Day roster will nonetheless include five pitchers who, as Rojas often puts it, “feature as starters.” Here’s a look at the situation:

David Peterson, LHP
Of all the names on this list, Peterson is the only one who has given the Mets consistent quality innings in the past, contributing 49 2/3 of them as a rookie last season. Early in camp, it seemed plausible that the Mets might tread carefully with Peterson, perhaps even going as far as to start him at their alternate training site to protect his arm from a heavy early workload. But Carrasco’s injury changes the equation. Peterson is now clearly one of the team’s five best starting options for the month of April. As such, the Mets will start him now and worry about his innings later.

They said it: “The job he did last year, how he’s throwing the ball stuff-wise and his mentality, just who this kid is -- you feel Petey is a guy that would probably be included in the rotation before a number of guys that you can call part of the competition. We feel that Petey is going to be a part of our rotation thinking … and then we’ll just keep looking on the other guys.” -- Rojas

Joey Lucchesi, LHP
Over the winter, the Mets acquired Lucchesi for exactly this type of situation: In the event of a rotation injury, team officials wanted to cover themselves with an additional big league-quality starter. Lucchesi fits the role, with a history that includes a 163 2/3-inning season with the Padres in 2019 and 58 career starts of roughly league-average quality. The Mets haven’t seen much of Lucchesi so far in Grapefruit League games, but they do like the sample to date, which includes seven strikeouts in five scoreless innings. Lucchesi provides a different look with his funky left-handed delivery, as well as some potential untapped upside.

They said it: “I just got traded. It’s a new organization. Honestly, I want to show them that I belong here. Every time I step on that rubber, I want to prove my worth. So that’s what I’m doing out there every time.” -- Lucchesi

Jordan Yamamoto, RHP
Entering camp, Yamamoto seemed destined for the Triple-A Syracuse rotation, considering his rough 2020 season with the Marlins. But Yamamoto has since submitted one of the more spotless spring lines of any Mets pitcher, allowing one run over his first 8 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. To beat out Lucchesi for the Mets’ final rotation spot, Yamamoto will need to clearly outperform him in Spring Training. So far, so good, albeit with plenty of time to go.

They said it: “I’m out there to compete. I’m out there to prove that I belong in the big leagues. I don’t want to go anyplace else. I’ve had that little bit of time of going up and down, and I do not like that. It’s one of those things where you get the taste of it and you want to stay. That’s where I want to stay is the big leagues.” -- Yamamoto

Other rotation contenders
Assuming Peterson claims the fourth spot in the Mets’ rotation, it would take some unforeseen circumstances for anyone other than Lucchesi or Yamamoto to grab the fifth. Nonetheless, Rojas has mentioned three others worth noting in camp. One is well-known to Mets fans: Righty Corey Oswalt, who received multiple compliments from Rojas before hurting his cause with a five-run blowup in Friday’s 8-5 win over the Cardinals. Oswalt is likely ticketed for Syracuse. … Two other veterans are fighting for spots. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff started one of the Mets’ early Grapefruit League games, but struggled and hasn’t pitched since. Lefty Mike Montgomery is currently stretching out as a starter as well. The Mets see him as a hybrid pitcher capable of filling any multi-inning role they need.