PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Although Seth Lugo has made three dozen big league appearances over the past two seasons, he has never broken camp with the Mets. Two years ago, he had only just surfaced on the Mets' radar as a 34th-round Draft pick who outperformed expectations. Last season, Lugo was primed to make the roster before a partially torn right elbow ligament forced him to the disabled list.
So the fact Lugo not only made the Mets' 2018 Opening Day roster, but also their rotation, is not lost on him.
"It's pretty cool," Lugo said. "I'm a big leaguer."
Initially slated to be part of New York's bullpen, Lugo so impressed Mets officials with his four scoreless innings on Thursday the club decided to award its final rotation spot to Lugo instead of Zack Wheeler. The assignment should be temporary -- Jason Vargas is due back from a fractured right hand in early to mid-April. But even if Lugo returns to the bullpen at that point, he should continue to play an important role for the Mets.
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"I'm proud to earn that spot," Lugo said. "I feel like I put in a lot of hard work this spring, and it's nice to see it pay off."
Matz all, folks
Steven Matz will pitch third in the Mets' rotation behind Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, manager Mickey Callaway announced on Sunday -- followed by Matt Harvey and Lugo. Matz capped his spring with four scoreless frames in the Mets' 4-3 win over the Marlins on Sunday, as he posted a 1.96 ERA over his final four starts. That came after the left-hander went 0-2 with a 54.00 ERA in his first two outings.
"I think he made the adjustment to just trust in his stuff," Callaway said. "We've been talking about conviction the whole camp, and he showed that. Today, he falls behind and he just lets it rip, and goes and gets guys. It was really good to see him make that adjustment."
More than anything, Matz said, he is glad to be healthy after injuries limited him to 35 starts over the past two seasons.
"That's what it's all about," Matz said. "When you go out there and you don't have anything nagging you, your adrenaline takes over and you just worry about getting guys out. So it's been really good."
Vargas returned to the mound on Saturday for the first time since he had surgery, throwing a bullpen session with a modified glove. Pitching coach Dave Eiland stood nearby and received throws back from the catcher, before he flipped them to Vargas -- who is recovering from surgery to remove a fractured bone from his glove hand.
Originally scheduled to throw the bullpen session on Friday, Vargas pushed it back after a stomach ailment briefly hospitalized him. He will open the season on the disabled list, but could return in time for the second or third turn through the rotation.
The Mets officially announced on Sunday what was already apparent: infielder Phillip Evans and reliever Jacob Rhame have made the team.
A longshot to head north heading into camp, Evans impressed the Mets enough that they were willing to keep an extra bench player so he could remain on the roster. He played six different positions in Grapefruit League games -- including catcher, a role he began learning just last month.
"I'm so excited," said Evans, who made his big league debut last September. "Being around these big league guys I grew up watching, it's very special to me. Being able to help this team win is extremely exciting."
The Mets announced they signed left-handed pitcher Fernando Abad to a Minor League contract on Sunday. Abad will report to Minor League camp.
Lacking a second lefty in their Opening Day bullpen alongside Jerry Blevins, the Mets shored up their depth in that area with Abad, 32, who posted a 3.30 ERA in 48 games with the Red Sox last season. He appeared in three games this spring with the Phillies, who released him on Wednesday.
Abad, Matt Purke and P.J. Conlon -- the latter two of whom were in big league camp this spring -- give the Mets left-handed options they can potentially call on later this summer. Over eight big league seasons, Abad owns a 3.65 ERA.
deGrom and Harvey will start opposite each other when the Mets play an intrasquad scrimmage on Monday at First Data Field. Following the game, the Mets will bus down to Palm Beach International Airport for the flight back to New York, where they're scheduled to play on Opening Day this Thursday against the Cardinals.