Lugo embracing role as swingman for Mets

June 9th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Although it took until the final day of May for to make his first start of 2018, there was little surprise that he finally did start a game. The Mets have spoken often about how even the league's best teams typically use 10 to 12 starters over the course of the season. Lugo, who nearly made the rotation out of Spring Training, was bound to make an impact there eventually.

So Lugo was not particularly surprised when the Mets told him he would start Sunday against the Yankees, with remaining on the disabled list. Lugo threw four innings in his first start against the Cubs on May 31, then three more innings five days later vs. the Orioles. He will be on regular rest when he returns to the rotation for Sunday Night Baseball.

"I was told in Spring Training this is how it's going to be all season," Lugo said. "So I've been preparing for the last few months that this is what it's going to be like."

When asked about his preference, Lugo typically says that he sees himself as a starter. The Mets would rather have him in the bullpen, mostly because of the depth he gives them there: In 31 career relief outings, many of them multi-inning affairs, Lugo owns a 2.43 ERA. But he has also pitched well as a starter, with a 3.98 mark in 27 games. Most of Lugo's issues in that role have occurred his third time through opposing batting orders.

"Even when he's pitching out of the bullpen, he has a starter-like feel," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of Lugo, who will be on a limit of around 80 pitches Sunday. "He's still throwing all of his pitches. He's elevating his fastball, leading with his curveball at times. He's putting guys away, throwing his changeup, has a good little slider. It's not your traditional one- or two-pitch reliever when he goes out there. And he's usually asked to throw multiple innings, so I think it's an easy transition."

Flores injury update

Callaway indicated that infielder will not require a rehab assignment as he works his way back from a sore lower back. Flores could return as soon as next week.

Draft signings

The Mets on Saturday announced their first wave of Draft signings, including seventh-rounder Kevin Smith, a left-handed pitcher, and ninth-rounder Bryce Montes de Oca, a right-hander. All told, the Mets signed 12 picks between the seventh and 31st rounds.

Still unsigned is first-rounder Jarred Kelenic, an outfielder, though the Mets expect to have a deal with him. As the sixth overall pick, Kelenic's slot value is $5,525,200.

Shake it up

With the Mets' offense struggling, Callaway shook up his lineup prior to Saturday's game against the Yankees. The most significant change came at the top, where made his first career appearance batting leadoff.

Although the move was designed more to shift to the middle of the order, Callaway said he hoped Rosario, who profiled as an ideal leadoff hitter as a prospect, would use his speed to create chaos in that spot. For his part, Rosario said he doubted he will change his free-swinging approach -- something the Mets have tried to rein in throughout his young career.

"I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself," Rosario said. "I'm just going to enjoy the moment."