CHICAGO -- Upon taking the Wrigley Field mound in the first inning Tuesday night, Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman stepped off the rubber and dragged his foot down the slope, drawing a large arrow in the dirt with his cleat. It is a habit he began earlier this season, a not-so-subtle reminder for him to finish his follow-through directly toward home plate, instead of falling off to one side.
Ultimately, the arrow had little effect on Gsellman, who walked a career-high five batters, allowed another five hits and served up four runs in four innings of the Mets' 8-3 loss to the Cubs. But he believes being mindful of mechanical details such as that will help him rediscover the form that made him successful down the stretch last season.
"I always have confidence when I take the mound," Gsellman said. "It's just a matter of if I can repeat my mechanics. Today, it was pretty bad. I've just got to watch video, and keep working on it."
It has been a difficult summer for Gsellman, a preseason National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate who went 2-3 with a 7.07 ERA over his first eight outings, prompting the Mets to remove him from the rotation. A successful relief stint earned Gsellman his job back, but he remained ineffective and landed on the disabled list when he tore his left hamstring.
Upon recovering, Gsellman's struggles continued on a Minor League rehab assignment. General manager Sandy Alderson said Gsellman needed "to pitch better" if he wanted to return to the big leagues. Gsellman retorted that he "didn't care," then later apologized. With the exception of one skipped start, he's been in the rotation ever since, going 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA, 14 strikeouts and 12 walks in 25 2/3 innings.
But Tuesday was a step backward.
The organization still has high hopes for Gsellman, whose power sinker makes him a potential rotation piece or late-innings bullpen arm for next year's roster. It was just last year that Gsellman went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in eight outings down the stretch for the Mets, striking out nearly a batter per inning thanks to the sinker.
Unlike Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and others, Gsellman has kept his arm healthy this season. So his falloff has come as something of a shock to an organization with big plans for him.
"It's very surprising, only because he got a real taste of what you have to do up here for success," manager Terry Collins said. "He had it. He's got the great movement on his fastball. You saw some good secondary pitches. ... I still think this kid's a great competitor. I still think he's got a tremendous future ahead of him. We've just got to get it turned around to where when he goes into the winter, when he gets ready for Spring Training, he's still got the same confidence that he left with last year."