Inbox: Should Lugo be in the rotation?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from Mets fans

April 6th, 2018

The Mets -- yes, the Mets -- are one of baseball's hottest teams. Rocketing out to a 5-1 start and first place in the National League East, the Mets have shown what they can look like when healthy.

Whether they stay that way is a question that only a long summer can answer. For now, we'll tackle some smaller-picture questions in this week's Inbox.

Does deserve a permanent rotation spot? Also, is much more effective from the bullpen.

-- @Grziz via Twitter

It's awfully difficult to say Lugo deserves a permanent rotation spot considering he hasn't even started a game. To the contrary, Lugo has looked so good in relief that the Mets have become somewhat smitten with him in that role. Just recently, manager Mickey Callaway began talking about piggybacking Lugo and Gsellman in a sort of bullpen game next week, rather than asking Lugo to go five or six innings in a start. The Mets, quite simply, don't love the idea of moving Lugo or Gsellman from a place in which they've been dominant.

As good as Lugo has looked, the Mets are wary of his history of struggling the third time through a lineup. They also love his and Gsellman's ability to bridge the gap between starters and back-end relievers, freeing them to use other arms in more traditional roles. If both continue thriving, I think they'll stay in the bullpen long term, with sliding back into the rotation as soon as he's ready.

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Why are the Mets so adamant against using at first? Seems like their best lineup has both and in it.

-- @walkitoffradio via Twitter

It's not that the Mets are against using Bruce at first base -- they did so last year, albeit in a small sample, and will probably do so again this year if their outfield remains jammed. It's more that they're not willing to part ways with after a week of, quite frankly, perfectly adequate play. Gonzalez is batting .294 with a .782 OPS so far this season. No, that's not as good as what Nimmo has done in 13 plate appearances, but keep in mind it's been just 13 plate appearances.

Gonzalez, also, is only going to play four times a week or so against right-handed pitchers. Reducing his role further would completely marginalize him.

I know people hate the phrase, "It will work itself out," but it almost certainly will. has missed 111 games the past two seasons. has missed 151. The notion that everyone will stay healthy long term is foolish. So right now, the Mets are sacrificing their optimal lineup -- I agree that having both Nimmo and Conforto in there is optimal -- so they can preserve the depth they have on their roster. It's almost identical to what they did last year with Conforto, benching him until, yes, things worked themselves out.

Conforto wound up making the NL All-Star team.

The other part of this equation is that Nimmo is not a finished product. He looked great all spring, facing loads of Minor League pitching. He looked great last September, facing loads of Minor League pitching. He's looked great this season in 13 trips to the plate. He has a super bright future -- much brighter than I think most would have predicted for him just two years ago. But it's not unreasonable to think that right now, in the early part of April, Gonzalez can give the Mets more consistent quality at-bats than Nimmo can.

Oh, and one more thing: Callaway is clearly dedicated to using all 13 of his hitters on a regular basis. Four of the Mets' five bench players have already started multiple times and the other, , has appeared in every game. Nimmo is going to play often, even with Gonzalez and Conforto in the regular lineup.

Without using the words "better matchup," why do you think Callaway feels it's necessary to play over ?

-- @BKBaseball1 via Twitter

It's obvious the Mets are trying to protect Rosario as he develops at the big league level. That's why they're regularly hitting him ninth, to prevent him from seeing a preponderance of breaking balls batting in front of the pitcher. And it's why they started Reyes against and , two tough right-handers who both rely extensively on breaking stuff.

As the season goes on, if Rosario continues hitting, I'm sure this will happen less and less. But for now, Reyes is going to play once or twice a week as the Mets look to keep Rosario's confidence high.

Is Matz ersatz, or will he improve his stats?

-- @cherzeca via Twitter

Bonus points for the rhyme. I'm really not worried about , who you may recall looked dreadful in his first two spring starts before turning things around in rather dramatic fashion. Matz's stuff -- mid-90s from the left side, with solid secondary pitches -- is plenty good enough to succeed in the big leagues. The Mets are convinced he just needs to trust in it more, and I tend to agree.

If Matz does that, look out for the stats.

Have you interviewed yet? I'm wondering what he has to say.

-- @AAARPGodess via Twitter

Robles is a man of few words, but he mentioned a couple of things that affected him when the Mets sent him to Minor League camp at the end of Spring Training. One was a mechanical tweak: he worked to speed up his delivery, delivering the ball faster to home plate. The other was a newfound mental focus.

We'll see if it lasts. So far, Robles has looked brilliant, striking out six of the seven batters he's faced.

When do you think we will see in the Majors again?

-- @RachelAlisha334 via Twitter

That depends almost exclusively on him. If Smith stays healthy and proves he's too good for Triple-A, he'll end up helping the Mets in short order. But that's a big ask of Smith, who has struggled to settle in at the big league level. It's a story worth watching all summer.

Where are the game MVPs? I need the crown and robe!!

-- @brookedienstag via Twitter

Sorry, but it appears that postgame tradition is dead. The Mets are into their salt-and-pepper celebration this year, and believe me -- if a player gets a big hit and doesn't grind the shaker, he's going to hear about it back in the dugout.