PITTSBURGH - With the Mets almost certainly poised to adopt a six-man starting rotation, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard appears to have carved out a spot of his own.
"Right now, he's not going anywhere," manager Terry Collins said Friday night after Syndergaard pitched well in a 4-1 loss to the Pirates.
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The possibility of a demotion has hovered over Syndergaard, 22, whose big-league cameo came about when veteran Dillon Gee landed on the disabled list with a strained groin. But even before Syndergaard's start Friday night, the Mets looked ready to make room in the rotation for both.
Collins stopped short of announcing a six-man rotation, but he hinted that the Mets are leaning in that direction, mostly as a way to manage the workload of their starters.
"I'm glad to stay here," said Syndergaard, who collected his first big-league hit. "I feel like I've had some pretty good success here. And I'm looking forward to making my next start."
In his third big-league outing, Syndergaard allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings, though the line was a reflection of the porous defense behind him.
The Pirates scored twice in the second after first baseman Lucas Duda failed to handle a routine grounder by Gregory Polanco, which would have been the third out of the inning. The play was scored a hit, pinning Syndergaard with a pair of earned runs.
"That's definitely an error," Duda said. "That's a play I should make 10 out of 10 times."
The Pirates scored two more runs in the sixth, this time because Syndergaard sailed a pickoff throw and neglected to hold a runner on.
In a duel of budding young stars, the Pirates' Gerrit Cole struck out 10 and held the Mets to an unearned run in a career-best 8 1/3 innings. The Mets' only run came in the third, when Juan Lagares reached on Josh Harrison's error and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
"His slider was absolutely devastating at times in the middle of the game," Collins said.
Had Syndergaard not earned a reprieve, the outcome would have made for a bitter ending to his first stint in the big leagues. But it's clear that this will be no cameo for Syndergaard, who is 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA, 16 strikeouts and five walks in 171/3 innings.
All season long, the Mets have made it clear that they will protect their stable of young pitchers. They hope to do so without late-season shutdowns such as the one the Nationals once imposed on Stephen Strasburg.
Matt Harvey, who is not a fan of the six-man rotation, faces an innings limit of roughly 200 in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. At his current pace, he'll shatter that number.
Jacob deGrom nearly missed his scheduled start Thursday with soreness and will be watched carefully.
Bartolo Colon, who is about to turn 42, has faded in his last few outings. Lefty Jonathon Niese has a track record of arm problems. Syndergaard likely won't be permitted to throw more than about 170 innings after racking up 133 last season.
Still, Collins did not divulge the team's plan. That likely won't happen until he meets with Gee, who won't rejoin the team until sometime after the game Saturday night. Said Collins: "There's a lot of maneuvering to be done."