Mets sticking with Vargas in rotation

April 14th, 2019

ATLANTA -- The Mets have no interest in overreacting to ’ latest poor start.

They made that clear on Sunday through both their words and actions: general manager Brodie Van Wagenen downplayed the possibility of the Mets pursuing free agent Dallas Keuchel as a rotation patch, while manager Mickey Callaway announced that Vargas will make his next start -- albeit delayed by a day.

“We have confidence in him. We have confidence in this team,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re not going to be making drastic changes to our club after one bad inning of a start where he had a schedule that was derailed from the start of the season.”

The latest derailment occurred because the Mets, wanting to prevent their other four starters from receiving too much rest, skipped Vargas’ second turn through the rotation. He started Saturday’s 11-7 loss to the Braves on 11 days’ rest, recording only one out and allowing four runs.

But the Mets do not see that performance, nor Vargas’ longer track record -- a 6.32 ERA since joining the Mets on a two-year, $16-million contract last February -- as reason to pursue Keuchel.

“I don’t think we operate in a world of temptation,” Van Wagenen said. “We want to try to go build the best team that we can. We like the guys that we have here. As people are fairly aware of, we’ll always monitor opportunities to get better, but we like the guys that we have. Including Jason Vargas.”

While Van Wagenen declined to discuss the team’s finances or payroll, he said that the Mets “have been able to create the roster that we’ve wanted to, regardless of dollars.”

It is a roster that includes plenty of quality position players but little rotation depth. Entering Spring Training, the Mets’ options beyond their starting five included Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy, who was recently lost on a waiver claim to the Rangers; Walker Lockett, who has yet to pitch this season due to an elbow injury; Corey Oswalt, who allowed five runs Saturday in relief of Vargas and earned a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse the following day; and Hector Santiago, who was in line to win an Opening Day roster spot before struggling late in March. Other depth pieces include prospects Chris Flexen and Drew Gagnon.

None are what the Mets consider prime options to replace Vargas. So barring a change in thinking regarding Keuchel, Vargas will continue to pitch.

“That’s why we feel like we need to give Vargas every opportunity to go out there and succeed at this point,” Callaway said. “We have faith that he will. He’s done it in the past. He’s struggled and then figured it out, and we have faith that he’ll do that again.”

To aid in that effort, the Mets plan to be more mindful of Vargas’ schedule. They will push his next start back one day, from Friday to Saturday, and have him throw two bullpen sessions between starts to keep fresh.

“We’ve got to get Vargas on a roll to be the best team,” Callaway said, adding that the Mets never seriously considered replacing him in the rotation. “We’ve talked about this in the past, Vargas needs to pitch well. And we’re going to try to get him every opportunity to do that.”

Roster move

To shore up their bullpen after relying on that unit for 8 2/3 innings of relief in Saturday’s loss, the Mets optioned Oswalt to Syracuse and recalled right-handed reliever Paul Sewald.

A veteran of parts of two big league seasons, Sewald owns a 5.25 ERA in the Majors. He was off to a strong start at Syracuse, throwing 5 1/3 shutout innings in four outings. The Mets expected Sewald to arrive at SunTrust Park shortly before game time Sunday.

Slow and steady

The Mets continue to practice prudence with injured infielder Todd Frazier, who may “potentially” join the team this week in Philadelphia but not before Tuesday. Frazier, who has been sidelined since mid-February due to a left oblique strain, has already played in eight rehab games for Class A Advanced St. Lucie, and is scheduled for a ninth on Monday.