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Matz's strong start bolsters Mets' rotation depth

Following '17 injury woes, Alderson not eager to trade starting pitchers yet
MLB.com @jonmorosi

LAKELAND, Fla. -- In 2017, the Mets never seemed to have enough rotation depth. They used 12 different starting pitchers. Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard each threw fewer than 100 Major League innings because of injuries.

Now, midway through their 2018 Spring Training, the Mets have more available starters than spots in the rotation. General managers around the Majors are certain to take note of that -- if they haven't already -- and ask Mets GM Sandy Alderson about the possibility of trading one.

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- In 2017, the Mets never seemed to have enough rotation depth. They used 12 different starting pitchers. Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard each threw fewer than 100 Major League innings because of injuries.

Now, midway through their 2018 Spring Training, the Mets have more available starters than spots in the rotation. General managers around the Majors are certain to take note of that -- if they haven't already -- and ask Mets GM Sandy Alderson about the possibility of trading one.

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But Alderson is not eager to make a deal. Yet.

"They may think we have depth, but given our recent history, we're not sure how much depth we really have -- or how much we will need," Alderson said Friday afternoon. "We're not anxious to trade pitching, although that situation may develop."

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The Mets' pitching bounty looked even better Friday, as Matz recovered from two wobbly starts to deliver his best outing of the spring. He allowed three hits and issued only one walk over four scoreless innings in a 4-4 tie to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. He retired Miguel Cabrera twice, including one strikeout on a 94-mph fastball.

Matz credited a "slight mechanical change" he made in a bullpen session with new pitching coach Dave Eiland as the catalyst for the improved results.

Tweet from @Mets: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.@Smatz88 was feeling good. #LGM pic.twitter.com/ybtfTxAo3G

"Dave came in here and made it very clear what he wants to do and how we're going to go about our business," Matz said. "He took the lead there and got me right."

Alderson acknowledged before Matz took the mound that his results against the Tigers would be more important than a typical Spring Training start -- "for [Matz's] own self-confidence," as much as anything else. Matz is trying to win a spot in the Mets' rotation, and his competitors -- Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo -- had outperformed him prior to Friday.

"I think we're all aware of the situation we have here," Matz said. "It's a really good situation for the New York Mets. I don't think it's going to change anything we do. I think we're all trying to maximize our potential, and the rest is out of our hands."

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For now, Syndergaard, Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and the newly signed Jason Vargas are expected to occupy the top four rotation spots. deGrom has dealt with lower-back stiffness this spring but is set to make his Grapefruit League season debut Sunday against the Astros.

Alderson said the Mets aren't considering Matz for a Major League relief role. That suggests the left-hander will begin the regular season as a starter, either in New York or at Triple-A Las Vegas, provided he remains healthy. As with Wheeler, Gsellman and Lugo, the Mets can send Matz to the Minor Leagues without exposing him to waivers.

Mets officials would consider Gsellman and Lugo for Major League relief roles if they believe the Triple-A roster has sufficient starting depth.

In other words, Alderson isn't under duress to make a trade before submitting his Opening Day roster. In general, Spring Training trade conversations have yet to gather momentum across the Majors, in part because so many free-agent alternatives remain. That's particularly true among starting pitchers, with Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb still available.

"March 10 is 'earlier' this year than it usually is, because of the season starting somewhat sooner," Alderson said, referring to the March 29 opener. "We're just getting through first cuts at this point, so I would expect the calls will pick up over the next week or 10 days."

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com.

New York Mets, Steven Matz