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Matz's arrival signals return to 6-man rotation

NEW YORK -- In announcing top prospect Steven Matz's pending promotion on Friday, the Mets officially moved back to the six-man rotation that they used and abandoned once already this season.

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When Matz pitches Sunday against the Reds, he will join a six-man cycle designed to limit the innings of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in particular, so the Mets can avoid shutting down any of their promising young pitchers in the midst of a pennant race.

"We're running out of games," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "I know we're not even at the midpoint of the season, but if you're looking at it from a long-term perspective, and how we address the issue with our other pitchers, you can't really put it off too much longer. So I'd say it was a convergence of Steven's performance and the need to get into this kind of cycle."

Added manager Terry Collins: "It's to benefit the whole organization."

The short-term effect is a promotion for Matz, who will officially join the rotation Sunday. The Mets wanted their top-rated prospect to arrive now due to his 2.19 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas, which Collins -- a longtime manager in the Pacific Coast League -- called "the best numbers I've ever seen anybody pitch in that … hitter's paradise." As a result, the Long Island native comes to Flushing amid at least as much hype as Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard did in 2012, '13 and '15, respectively.

"We're very, very excited to see him," Collins said.

Just as important a justification for the Mets was realizing they needed to do something relatively dramatic -- and soon -- if they want to avoid shutting down Harvey and Syndergaard later this season. Though the staff's initial lukewarm reception of the six-man rotation was part of the reason they abandoned it last month, the Mets, in Alderson's words, will be "fairly strict and disciplined" about it this time. Collins added that the entire staff is "on board" with a plan that could last for the rest of the season.

"Certainly, this is in their best interest," Collins said.

Even so, Alderson added that the plan "is not cast in concrete." The Mets could decide to skip a starter later this season if he is nearing his innings limit, or could go back to a five-man rotation if someone struggles for a prolonged period of time. Collins also plans to juggle his rotation order at the All-Star break so that left-handers Matz and Jon Niese -- who was originally scheduled to start Sunday, but will instead go Tuesday -- will not pitch back to back.

This is something the Mets have talked about for months, going as far as to try the six-man rotation on an interim basis earlier this season.

Now, finally, the Mets appear committed to it.

"Someone might argue, 'Well look, let's put our best five out there right now and stay in the race, and what the heck? If we get to September and we're not in it, what difference does it make?'" Alderson said. "But what we're trying to do is be as competitive as we can, win as many games as we can now, but at the same time be mindful that if it all works out, we want to have some flexibility toward the end of the season."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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