Mets have logjam for potential playoff rotation
Collins doesn't anticipate Syndergaard, Matz or Niese pitching in bullpen
NEW YORK -- The competition for high-leverage middle-relief opportunities within the Mets' bullpen remains alive and unresolved after New York escaped with a 5-4 win over Boston on Sunday, with Hansel Robles surrendering another big hit, Logan Verrett optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas and former closer Addison Reed on the way from Arizona.
Shoring up the seventh inning lingers as New York's primary focus at the moment. But another average start from Noah Syndergaard suggests that the Mets could have decisions to make regarding the rotation as well, even if they're not ready to make them yet.
Syndergaard allowed four runs over 6 2/3 innings to conclude a lackluster August with a 4.79 ERA over six starts. That's a far cry from the 1.32 mark he posted in July, which he finished with a masterful outing against Washington that appeared to be a preview for October baseball, if the Mets were to make the postseason.
Now they head toward September in that precise position, still 5 1/2 games up on the Nationals and with Steven Matz set to return this week. The struggles of Syndergaard and Jon Niese (5.17 August ERA) create a logistical logjam.
Simply put, New York has six starters for four potential playoff rotation spots and two young hurlers in Syndergaard and Matz who profile as potentially dominant relievers. Who goes? Who stays?
Mets manager Terry Collins has said publicly that Syndergaard, Matz and Niese aren't being considered for bullpen roles. But playoff rotations never extend past four, and Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom are locks. Bartolo Colon (4.65 ERA), meanwhile, likely wouldn't be in the postseason starting rotation.
"When we get close to the end of September, we will analyze where we stand and what our pitching looks like," Collins said. "Right now, I have no plans of putting Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard in the bullpen. They've never done it. Matz has a history of arm problems. Noah, can he do it? Absolutely he can do it. Are we going to do it? I doubt."
Collins' confidence in Syndergaard's ability to thrive in the late innings stems from Syndergaard's power arsenal, and several modern precedents from around the league.
Adam Wainwright transitioned into a dominant closer during his rookie year for the 2006 World Series champion Cardinals, when his fastball reached the upper-90s. St. Louis did the same with Trevor Rosenthal in 2012, after Rosenthal made 20 Minor League starts that season. David Price led Tampa Bay to the World Series in 2008 as a reliever.
Syndergaard made 11 relief appearances in the Minors, but none since Class A ball. Matz's lone career relief outing came this season for Las Vegas, against 68 Minor League starts.
Matz's return after his final rehab start Monday will stretch the Mets' current rotation to six for the foreseeable future. That will create clutter, as well as more competition.