Matz after strong outing vs. Astros: 'I'm a starter'

February 29th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- At this point in Spring Training, the Mets have made no decisions regarding their rotation. They may give a starting job to outright. They may give one to . They may choose neither, mixing and matching based on matchups, and/or using openers when appropriate.

It will be weeks before the Mets come to any sort of conclusions, once they have more time to scout their own pitchers and see if injuries occur. In the meantime, Matz has his opinions, which he offered after throwing two scoreless innings Saturday in the Mets’ 2-1 win over the Astros.

“I think I’m a little bit more [of the mindset], ‘A starting pitcher starts games,’” Matz said, when asked about the possibility of the Mets using openers before his outings. “But whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to really complain about it, whatever they really decide. Right now, they told me I’m a starter, so I’m going in as a starter right now and we’ll see what happens. But I kind of like a starter starting the game. That’s my preference.”

On paper, Matz profiles as the exact type of pitcher who might benefit from an opener, considering he posted a 6.21 ERA in the first innings of games last season and a 3.76 mark after that. Using an opener before Matz could dissuade opposing teams from stacking their lineups with right-handed hitters, with little risk of cutting short Matz’s outings. The left-hander recorded an out in the seventh inning just four times in 30 starts last season.

But as a lifelong starter, Matz believes it would be difficult to prepare for games not knowing exactly what time he’ll take the mound.

He understands the success teams like the Rays and Yankees have had using openers. He just doesn’t think the strategy is necessarily right for him.

“It’s definitely intriguing, but for me personally, it’s just my whole career, I’ve never done that,” Matz said. “I’m used to starting, warming up for the game, long-tossing, all that stuff. So I think that stuff is different. We’ve never done it in the big leagues with the Mets really, so I don’t know how it is. I don’t know what it’s like.”

For now, the idea of using openers is more an academic exercise for the Mets than anything else. If Matz continues succeeding in Spring Training -- he’s allowed one run in three innings so far -- it’s entirely possible he’ll win a more traditional rotation job.

“Right now, I’m a starter, building up as a starter,” Matz said. “And so I’m just trying to get better every day. We’ve got a lot of good pitchers in camp. It’s a great thing for us looking toward our goal of winning the World Series. I’m really not looking at it as a competition, just whatever I can do right now to be the best I can be to help the team this season.”

Versatility rules
The Mets’ game-winning rally Saturday came courtesy of Jake Hager and Max Moroff, two non-roster invitees hoping to impress the team with their versatility. Already this spring, Hager has played all four infield positions, and the Mets intend to try him in the outfield on Sunday. Moroff has played both shortstop and second base, with plans to take some reps at third as well.

“They’ve showed a lot of great things, and it goes back to the versatility that they have,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “Two good players, utility players that feature a lot of value to us.”

Hager doubled home the tying run in the ninth inning, then scored the go-ahead run on Moroff’s double against Ralph Garza.

From the trainer’s room
The Mets still don’t have timelines for relievers Seth Lugo or Dellin Betances to make their Grapefruit League debuts. Lugo, who took a brief break from mound work after breaking his left pinkie toe earlier in camp, expects to throw a round of live batting practice Sunday. Theoretically, he could appear in games next week.

Betances has already thrown live BP, doing so on Friday. The Mets remain cautious with him in his first action back from a partial Achilles tear, though they expect Betances to be ready for Opening Day.

Up next
Two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom will make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET, anchoring the home half of a split squad against the Nationals at Clover Park. deGrom made an unofficial spring debut earlier this week in a simulated game, but he will be appearing in a real game for the first time since September.

deGrom, of course, is assured a spot in the Mets’ rotation. One of the pitchers fighting for a job, Wacha, will start the Mets’ other game in Jupiter, Fla., against the Marlins. That one is scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. ET start.