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Notes: Aggressive Matz; 1st blast from Marisnick

@AnthonyDiComo
February 23, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Steven Matz can do the math as well as anyone. Six starters. Five spots. One man must go to the bullpen. “I recognize logistically what we have before us, which ultimately is a good problem to have,” Matz said after allowing one run over one

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Steven Matz can do the math as well as anyone. Six starters. Five spots. One man must go to the bullpen.

“I recognize logistically what we have before us, which ultimately is a good problem to have,” Matz said after allowing one run over one inning Sunday in the Mets’ 3-3 Grapefruit League tie with the Cardinals. “For me personally, I’m going to just try to maximize my stuff the best I can … and just try to be the best I can, and make the most progress I can from last season right now.”

In the early days of camp, the Mets are calling their entire rotation an open competition, though it seems obvious that Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman will claim three spots. That leaves two for some combination of Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.

When the Mets signed Porcello and Wacha to one-year deals this winter, they told them they would have opportunities to win starting jobs. How far those guarantees went isn’t entirely clear.

At this point, all Matz can do is pitch as well as possible in February and March. Sunday, he allowed a home run to leadoff man Harrison Bader before settling down to retire the final three batters he faced in his Grapefruit League debut.

It’s a little early to consider that an extension of 2019, when Matz posted a 6.21 ERA in the first innings of games, but a 3.76 mark after that. Matz spent much of the season trying to figure out how to avoid those first-inning struggles, which resulted in several “blow-up” starts that affected his bottom line. It was not until the Mets temporarily placed him in the bullpen in July that Matz discovered what he believes is the solution: worrying less about how his pitches feel on any given day, and more about aggressively attacking hitters regardless.

Upon rejoining the rotation after the All-Star break, Matz went 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA over his final 14 starts, allowing one first-inning run in all of them combined.

“Some days, you just feel like you don’t have it,” Matz said. “And so sometimes, you’ve got to just trust -- trust that what you have, all the work you put in, all the preparation that you put in, that it’s going to be there, instead of, ‘I don’t feel like I have a good curveball today,’ so you shy away from it or whatever. You put in all these hours of work, just trust it, go out and execute. That mentality, I think translates well for me.”

Early power
The Mets’ first home run of spring came courtesy of Jake Marisnick, a center fielder the Mets acquired from the Astros in December. Despite his reputation as a defensive-minded outfielder, Marisnick averaged 12 home runs per season in part-time duty the past three years in Houston.

This winter, Marisnick said, he spent significant time working on his offense. Mets hitting coach Chili Davis has encouraged him to focus less on his mechanics and more on hunting pitches in locations he can handle. For example: an 87-mph Adam Wainwright fastball that leaked over the inner half of the plate.

“It felt good. It always feels good,” Marisnick said of his homer. “That’s the goal, to get a good pitch, get a good swing on it. The sooner you can do that and the more consistent you do that, the better. So it was good to get that first one out of the way.”

From the trainer’s room
Jed Lowrie (left side issues) is still not ready to appear in Grapefruit League games, Mets manager Luis Rojas said. Rojas did not have a timeline for Lowrie, who is growing accustomed to playing with a bulky brace on his left leg.

“Right now he’s working with the brace, and he feels like himself,” Rojas said of Lowrie, who missed nearly all of last season due to similar leg issues. “It’s something that we’re looking at closely. … He’s got to keep on doing the things that are going to progress him into the games.”

Robinson Canó also has yet to appear in spring games as he works to strengthen his legs. Rojas said he expects Canó to debut around the end of February or the start of March.

Up next
Left-hander David Peterson, the Mets’ first-round pick in the 2017 Draft, will make his Grapefruit League debut Monday against the Nationals. Peterson increased his slider usage in the second half of last season, posting a 4.73 ERA over his first 12 outings for Double-A Binghamton, then a 3.73 ERA in his final 12. He’ll face the Nationals in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.