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Mets have luxury of 5 Opening Night starters

Collins to take many factors into consideration, including matchups, conditioning
MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The thing about lining up the New York Mets' starting rotation for 2016 is that every option could be the correct one.

Manager Terry Collins has given nothing away on this score. He has said that all five starters are in the running to be the Opening Night pitcher when the Mets face the Royals in a World Series rematch on April 3.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The thing about lining up the New York Mets' starting rotation for 2016 is that every option could be the correct one.

Manager Terry Collins has given nothing away on this score. He has said that all five starters are in the running to be the Opening Night pitcher when the Mets face the Royals in a World Series rematch on April 3.

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If most managers made a statement of that nature, the next thing you would hear would be laughter. But with the Mets, that same statement has the ring of plausibility.

OK, maybe Bartolo Colon won't be the Opening Night starter. But he was the Opening Day starter in 2015. And even though Colon will be 43 in May, all the recent evidence suggests that he can still pitch, so the notion of him getting the call isn't that far-fetched. But he is holding a rotation spot for Zack Wheeler, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in midseason. At this point, Colon is more likely to be No. 5 in the rotation than No. 1.

Based on Major League experience and achievement to date, the obvious candidates for the No. 1 role are Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey. But beyond them are two impressive talents, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Harvey is in his second season after coming back from Tommy John surgery. Collins has said that already in Spring Training, Harvey's fastball has had better late life than it had last year.

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deGrom had the best season statistically of any Mets starter in 2015, with, for instance, a 2.54 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and a 5.39 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Syndergaard at 23 is younger and less experienced, but he may have the best stuff of any Mets starter, which is saying a lot.

Matz, 24, has only nine big league starts, with three of them in postseason play. But he's a left-hander with a mid-90s fastball and a big-time breaking ball. Matz is likely to be the No. 4 pitcher in this rotation. But based on talent, you could safely rank him ahead of at least eight Major League pitchers who are currently No. 1 in their teams' rotations.

On other clubs, the order of the rotation is typically determined by putting the best pitcher at the top and then slotting the rest of the rotation in order of achievement and talent. It is a fairly straightforward process.

With the 2016 Mets, with four talents of this magnitude, other factors can and will enter the equation.

"We try to sit down and look at the schedule," Collins said Monday at Tradition Field after the Mets had finished their workouts. "Even though they all throw hard, they're not necessarily similar, so you like to break them up if you can so it's not as consistent.

"And there are certain obvious teams that guys pitch well against, so you want to match them up that way.

"As we get into the camp and we start to decide how we're going to line them up, we'll take a look at a lot of factors, and one will be their condition. Who is going to be ready the earliest and the fastest and be able maintain it?"

This is one of those rare but pleasant situations in which the correct decision might be any decision that is made. Much will be made about which pitcher is No. 1, the star of stars in this rotation. But the real story here will continue to be not just one tremendously talented pitcher, but four tremendously talented pitchers. And later on this season, no disrespect intended toward Colon, but when Wheeler returns, the number will climb to five.

There are big stars on other rotations. But nobody else has a rotation like the Mets have, no matter what their order of appearance is.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.

 

New York Mets, Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler