Verlander's injury gives this pitcher a shot

March 31st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

A day before camp broke in Port St. Lucie, Fla., stood in front of his locker, visibly disappointed. It had been evident for a week or two that Megill wasn’t going to make the team but hearing that news from a manager still stings. Buck Showalter assured Megill he would soon return -- perhaps even by mid-April -- as a sixth starter to give the Mets’ other rotation members a rest.

For Megill, it rang mostly hollow.

“Obviously, I want to be up there playing with them,” he said that day. “All I can do right now is just do me and just work and be ready when my name’s called.”

What Megill probably didn’t consider was that his phone might buzz less than a week later. As the Mets bused south to Miami, Megill flew in the opposite direction to Syracuse, N.Y., where he arrived to prepare for his Opening Day start at Triple-A. Then, a few hours before the Mets’ opener in Miami, he was told not to make that start. Hold off on those plans. Head back to the airport and return to South Florida instead.

An 11th-hour injury to Justin Verlander had changed the equation for Megill, who will now pitch Game 3 of the season Saturday in Miami. Sound familiar? Last spring, Megill became the Mets’ Opening Day starter by default after Jacob deGrom suffered a shoulder injury, and Max Scherzer tweaked his hamstring. This year, a similar path cleared when both José Quintana and Verlander suffered March injuries.

Megill hopes to leverage the opportunity like he did last year, when he went undefeated over five April starts.

“It’s one of the things that good clubs are able to do,” Showalter said. “We did it last year in overcoming a lot of this stuff. Whether it’s the first part of the season or later on, I don’t think [Verlander’s injury] is a real hot topic right now in our locker room.”

Over the offseason, Mets general manager Billy Eppler worked to supplement his team’s starting pitching depth, understanding the risk that comes with a rotation featuring Verlander at age 40, Scherzer at age 38 and three other starters on the wrong side of 30. But no matter whom the Mets brought in -- Elieser Hernández via trade, for example, or Dylan Bundy in a late-March signing -- the top two rotation depth pieces were always going to be left-hander David Peterson and Megill, who combined to start 28 games last season.

While the Mets didn’t plan on using either so soon, they’re happy to have such options at their disposal.

“We feel good about the optionality and the depth that we’ve built,” Eppler said. “We took on some water a little bit in Spring Training with some injuries, but all in all, it’s my job and the job of the front office to look near and far for reinforcements.”