Manager Luis Rojas said this week that the Mets are "open-minded" about using openers instead of traditional starting pitchers for some games.
Would veteran lefthanded reliever Aaron Loup be OK with such a role?
"Yeah, absolutely. If they need me, I’m more than willing," Loup, 33, said in his easygoing Louisiana twang Thursday. "Who wouldn’t want to be the guy to start the game and then get to sit in the clubhouse and drink a few brews on the back end and watch the rest of it, you know?"
Loup signed a one-year deal with the Mets last month, functionally a replacement for Justin Wilson, who the previous two seasons was the primary lefty in the bullpen, able to pitch against lefthanded and righthanded batters.
Last year with the Rays, Loup held righties to a .192 average and .423 slugging percentage. That helped him post a 2.52 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, the best numbers of his career.
He said he likes the rule — new last year — that mandates that pitchers face at least three batters (or finish an inning). In previous seasons, he felt pigeonholed as a lefty specialist, but he knew he could be more.
"The three-batter minimum kind of gave me the opportunity to prove to myself and to other teams that this guy can get righthanders out too," Loup said. "He has more value than being a lefty specialist."
Loup said signing with the Mets was a "pretty easy decision."
"Looking at the roster they were building and the things they’re trying to do, you can tell they’re pushing to make a playoff run and have a good team this year," he said. "Looks like we should have a pretty good team and should be a lot of fun this year."
As for using openers — when a reliever pitches an inning or two at the beginning of the game — Rojas said the Mets have not seriously discussed it. He does not see it as a necessity, even as teams face questions about managing the workloads of pitchers who didn’t throw many innings during the shortened 2020 season.
The Mets have enough clubhouse and field space that all of their players can practice at the same time — unlike camp at Citi Field last summer, when the Mets hosted multiple sessions per day . . . Rojas on the Mets’ teenage catching prospect: "This kid Francisco Alvarez, we’ve seen him take BP a couple of times. He’s got some hit ability, I’ll tell you that just from watching the BP. At a young age." . . . Rojas, who managed Tim Tebow in Double-A in 2018, said he texted with Tebow on Wednesday after he announced his retirement. "The way he went about his business is impressive," Rojas said. "He’ll sure be missed around here."
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