Mets plan to pair Thor with Rivera next time out

September 17th, 2019

DENVER -- Upon further review, the Mets are going to grant his wish.

New York tentatively plans to pair Syndergaard with backup catcher René Rivera on Wednesday, multiple sources said, with hopes that a new batterymate will allow Syndergaard to find his top form at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Syndergaard owns a 2.22 ERA throwing to backups Rivera and Tomas Nido this year, vs. a 5.20 mark pitching to Wilson Ramos.

Those numbers did not sway the Mets last Friday, when they started Ramos behind the plate despite Syndergaard’s request to throw to either Rivera or Nido. The result was another mediocre start for Syndergaard -- four runs allowed in five innings -- in a key loss to the Dodgers. Mets officials have said that they want Ramos’ bat in their lineup as often as possible, considering that, entering Monday, he led the National League with a .369 average since the start of August.

That doesn’t jive with Syndergaard’s wishes, but the Mets now appear willing to reconsider -- even though starting Rivera on Wednesday means benching Ramos twice in three games at Coors Field. The Mets had to rest Ramos either Monday or Tuesday due to their rule of not playing him more than four consecutive games, so Nido started behind the plate for Monday's series opener against the Rockies.

Stretching out?

Due to their lack of rotation depth heading into the winter, the Mets are considering the idea of stretching out as a starter.

The team has mentioned the idea to Gsellman, going as far as to ask if he would be willing to start games in winter ball after the year. While nothing is finalized, Gsellman is intrigued by the idea of returning to the rotation after starting games regularly in 2016-17.

“Starting, that’s where all the fun is,” Gsellman said, noting that he is unlikely to play winter ball but could still stretch out next spring. “I’m not saying the bullpen is boring by any means, but I don’t get to go out there five, six, seven, eight innings, control the whole game. Any pitcher would want that, of course.”

Should Zack Wheeler leave to test the open market in free agency, the Mets will have four proven starters returning in Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman. Without any blue-chip prospects nearing the Majors, the Mets’ most prominent depth piece beyond those four is rookie Walker Lockett.

The Mets could add to their depth via free agency, but they showed little interest in making a big-splash rotation addition under similar circumstances last winter. An alternative would be to add from within. Gsellman is one option, as is Seth Lugo, a standout reliever who has been vocal in his desire to start. (The Mets have not approached Lugo about that possibility, but they could do so during exit interviews later this month.)

Gsellman was a relatively successful starter early in his career, going 11-9 with a 4.60 ERA in 29 outings, but the last of those occurred in 2017. Since then, he has expressed happiness pitching out of the bullpen in a way that Lugo never did.

Don’t mistake that for lifetime acceptance of the role.

“If [starting] is what they want me to do, I’d love to come in and try it out and see where it goes,” Gsellman said.

For now, Gsellman is focused on getting healthy after missing the past five weeks due to a torn right lat. He threw a bullpen session Sunday for the first time since his injury, and he intends to return to the Mets before the end of the season.

“I think I’ll have a good chance,” Gsellman said. “I want to. I’ve been missing the most fun part of the season, but it’s been awesome watching what they do. I want to be a part of it, so I’ve just been working hard to get back.

From the trainer’s room

First baseman Dominic Smith has shifted his injury rehab from New York to Florida. The Mets’ hope is that Smith, who restarted running and baseball activities last week, can add to his workload while the Mets are on their six-game road trip.

Smith’s goal is to be ready for the Mets to activate him when he is eligible on Sept. 25, giving him a chance to appear in some of the Mets’ final five games. He has not played since July 26 due to a stress fracture in his left foot.

Lowrie an option

To date, the Mets have avoided giving Jed Lowrie a start since activating him from a five-month stint on the injured list. That could change soon, however. Manager Mickey Callaway said Lowrie is physically capable of playing a full nine-inning game, despite his relative lack of activity.

“We have to make sure it’s the right fit, but he’s still a consideration,” Callaway said. “That’s all I can say.”

Since the Mets activated Lowrie on Sept. 7, he has pinch-hit on multiple occasions but has not played the field. He spent more than five months recovering from a medley of leg injuries after signing a two-year, $20-million deal last winter.