VIERA, Fla. - Mets manager Terry Collins was standing over a putt on the 17th green in January when he learned that the Nationals had signed Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210-million deal.
"OK,'' Collins said Thursday night before Scherzer made his Grapefruit League debut in the Nationals' 5-4 win over the Mets. "The game's on.''
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The Mets and Nationals boast two of the best starting rotations in the National League. To Collins, experience give the Nationals an edge. But the Mets, he said, don't lag far behind.
"I like our pitching a lot,'' he said. "We're not afraid to go head-to-head with them.''
Scherzer, who allowed one run in two innings, joins a rotation that already included Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.
Tanner Roark was forced into the bullpen. It's a fate shared by Dillon Gee, who has been squeezed into a relief role by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon, who tossed two perfect innings Thursday night.
The Mets entered the offseason open to trading Colon, but according to a source, the 41-year-old righthander attracted no interest after going 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA.
"I think people are scared off because he's [going to be] 42 and he's thrown a whole bunch of innings in his career and he's got a price tag that's pretty good,'' Collins said. "Economics have a lot to do with the game.''
Colon will earn $11 million in 2015. He was the only Mets pitcher to throw at least 200 innings (2021/3), a fact that he said makes him "very proud.''
Aside from Lucas Duda, who has an intercostal strain, the Mets will play all their regulars in Friday's Grapefruit League home opener against the Tigers.