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Inbox: When will Mets name fifth starter?

March 2, 2020

As the Mets enjoy their first of two spring off-days, it’s time to dip into the Inbox. About three and a half weeks remain until Opening Day. Here’s what’s on your mind: **Do we have any new updates on the pitching-rotation situation? All of the pitchers up for a rotation

As the Mets enjoy their first of two spring off-days, it’s time to dip into the Inbox. About three and a half weeks remain until Opening Day. Here’s what’s on your mind:

Do we have any new updates on the pitching-rotation situation? All of the pitchers up for a rotation spot have been doing well, so this will be difficult.
-- @saam_brownn via Twitter

Realistically, the answer on this isn’t going to change for at least two more weeks. The Mets won’t name a fifth starter until they have to -- if they even name a fifth starter at all. There’s simply too great a chance that injury or performance issues will make this decision for the Mets before the end of spring.

Yes, Rick Porcello, Steven Matz and Michael Wacha all seem to be thriving so far. They’ve also thrown three, three and five innings, respectively. By the end of the Grapefruit League season, they’ll pitch about five to six times that amount.

Of course, speculation is the fun part, and the Mets could go any which way with this thing. It’s probably safe to assume at this point that Porcello will be in the rotation, given his $10 million contract and his history, even in his worst years, as a sturdy innings-eater. The Mets promised him a real opportunity to start, which leaves one spot for either Matz or Wacha.

…or, it would leave one spot for Matz or Wacha in a traditional competition. The Mets are at least considering the idea of mixing and matching those two based on matchups, knowing such an arrangement would surely be temporary. (No one uses only five starters over the course of a season.) They’re also kicking around the idea of having Robert Gsellman or even Seth Lugo serve as an opener, perhaps alleviating Matz’s first-inning issues from 2019.

Again, these are just ideas in the conceptual stages. It’s entirely possible the Mets simply hand the fifth-starter’s job to either Matz or Wacha and put the other in the bullpen. It’s also possible an injury makes the decision easy for them. Just don’t expect an answer within the next two weeks. For the Mets, there’s no upside to choosing now.

Who do you think will be the leadoff hitter on Opening Day -- Jeff McNeil or Brandon Nimmo?
-- @SharonWeidberg1 via Twitter

If you’re forcing me to guess, I’d go with Jeff McNeil. I don’t think it is a coincidence that he’s led off every game he’s played this spring, often with Nimmo batting right behind him. The Mets don’t mind McNeil’s propensity to swing at first pitches as a leadoff hitter -- especially if Nimmo is second, knowing Nimmo can serve almost as a secondary leadoff hitter in that role.

The truth -- and it’s not the sexy answer -- is that McNeil, Nimmo and Amed Rosario will almost certainly all lead off at various points this season. Matchups matter. Hot streaks matter. Cold streaks matter. Injuries happen. The Mets went years without having any great options at leadoff. Now, they have three. They’re not going to lock themselves out of a chance to use all of them.

When does David Peterson make his debut in Queens?
-- @delinquent_dog via Twitter

This season seems like a pretty good guess. I’ve been impressed this spring by Peterson, who’s hit 94 mph in each of his first two Grapefruit League outings. That’s no small deal for a pitcher who has succeeded in the past with lesser velocity. This winter, Peterson made strengthening his lower half a priority, and it’s paid off with some February success.

Since the start of camp, Mets manager Luis Rojas has talked about how the Mets have six starting pitchers: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Porcello, Matz and Wacha. Notably, he recently expanded that list to seven, citing Peterson’s spring performance. Rapidly, Peterson is putting himself on the list of potential callups should something go wrong in Flushing. If nothing else, he could conceivably help as a left-handed bullpen arm in September. Speaking of…

Do you think the Mets will keep two lefties in the ’pen?
-- @perryfbcoach via Twitter

I envision the Mets’ bullpen consisting of: Edwin Díaz, Dellin Betances, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Brad Brach, Robert Gsellman, and the loser of the fifth-starter competition. That leaves no room for Daniel Zamora or any other lefty in camp, so the Mets -- barring injury -- would only carry two if Matz winds up in the bullpen.

Stephen Gonsalves can be the sneakiest, most underrated pickup of the offseason. Can go into the rotation, long relief, fill in due to injury/trade. Agree/disagree?
-- @ChupacabrasGM via Twitter

Yeah, I agree that people aren’t talking enough about Gonsalves. A lot of folks were surprised when the Twins DFA’d him. The Mets benefited, claiming a pitcher who immediately slotted into their Top 30 prospects (No. 23) and was throwing in the mid-90s toward the end of last season. Although Gonsalves did that while pitching in relief after returning from injury, the Mets are stretching him out to be a starter. I assume he’ll open the season in the Triple-A Syracuse rotation, then go from there. Like you said, he could fill a number of future roles for the Mets depending on their needs and his performance.

If you were invited to the Insomnia Cookie club, what would your cookie of choice be? :)
-- @SharonWeidberg1 via Twitter

I think Michael Conforto put it best: Classic chocolate chip. “I don’t like to mess around.”

My sentiments exactly, Michael.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.