A look at Mets' in-house options for SP depth
Font allows five runs in 2 1/3 innings in loss to Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Time and again this offseason, the Mets passed on opportunities to improve their starting pitching depth, limiting themselves to a series of minor moves. In April, the Mets made an offer to but did not sign Gio Gonzalez, who has pitched well for the Brewers. Since that time, they have kept tabs on -- but otherwise ignored -- free agent Dallas Keuchel.
All the while, team officials have touted the strength of their in-house options, which haven’t performed the way they’ve envisioned. With Steven Matz and Jason Vargas on the injured list, the Mets gave a second start Wednesday to trade acquisition Wilmer Font, who allowed five runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 5-1 loss at Nationals Park.
The Mets fell to 0-3 in games started by pitchers who were not in their Opening Day rotation, and they have been outscored 18-5 in those games.
“I have faith that somebody’s going to step up,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We need them to step up and I think eventually they will.”
Wednesday, the Nationals scored three runs before Font recorded his second out. Although Font did make it through a scoreless second inning, Victor Robles led off the third with a homer, and Howie Kendrick chased the Mets’ starter from the game with an RBI double.
“I just didn’t really have the same type of control,” said Font, who earned Wednesday’s opportunity after allowing two runs in four innings in his Mets debut.
In the short term, the Mets’ rotation should be just fine. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler are all healthy and -- with the exception of Syndergaard’s inconsistencies -- pitching well. Matz threw a 45-pitch bullpen session earlier Wednesday and is a decent bet to return to the rotation on Saturday. Vargas may need a Minor League rehab start before he’s cleared to throw, but he isn’t far behind Matz in his recovery.
In the long term, the Mets’ depth issues seem more concerning. The team has used seven starters already this season and, if history is any guide, will lean on three or four more over the course of the year. Candidates include:
• Drew Gagnon, who threw 2 2/3 shutout innings Wednesday in relief of Font and is perhaps next in line for a spot start when another need arises. Gagnon has posted a 0.51 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Syracuse, and he is quickly becoming a valuable member of the bullpen.
• Hector Santiago, a veteran who nearly made the Mets’ Opening Day roster but missed out after two poor Grapefruit League starts to end spring. At Syracuse, Santiago has been consistent, but not overpowering. He’s allowed no more than three runs in any start, but he has also completed six innings just once.
• Corey Oswalt, the Mets’ sixth starter when camp broke, who has since allowed nine runs in 6 2/3 big league relief innings. Oswalt has been solid as a Triple-A starter, and he was valuable last year on a regular routine. But he hasn’t done any more than Font this year at the Major League level.
• Chris Flexen, the Mets’ other spot starter this season, who allowed six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings in that game.
• Anthony Kay, a 24-year-old who is still at Double-A Binghamton but boasts the highest ceiling of anyone on this list. The Mets’ seventh-ranked prospect, Kay owns a 1.24 ERA in eight starts at Binghamton, and he could become a rotation option later this season.
The Mets have been resistant to using relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as starters given their value in the bullpen, and they don’t appear ready to alter that philosophy. Another option, Walker Lockett, has yet to pitch this year due to a lingering arm injury. So barring a signing of Keuchel -- unlikely, as team officials have said all season -- the Mets will proceed with the arms they have in-house and hope for better results.
“We have options,” Callaway said. “We just need one of them to step up.”