Mets' David Peterson knows what Tylor Megill will be going through
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — David Peterson will open the season as the Mets’ fifth starter, pitching Friday against the Marlins and every five games or so thereafter, in the rotation indefinitely until his performance or the team’s personnel necessitates otherwise. If he is good, he will stay. If he is not, well, they’ll figure that out then.
In that sense, this new role is downright cushy. A year after serving as the Mets’ sixth starter, promoted to the majors on a half-dozen occasions but demoted just as frequently — transactions often independent of his own overall solid performance — Peterson is poised to have a regular schedule for at least a few months. That is a real treat.
He is deeply familiar, then, with the challenge that awaits Tylor Megill, the runner-up in the Mets’ spring training competition for the last starting spot. Megill, who will open the year in Triple-A Syracuse, also is throwing Friday, his first time pitching in the minors (aside from rehabilitation assignments) since reaching the majors two years ago.
Megill is unofficially the new Peterson. The Mets plan to slot in a sixth starter periodically this season — perhaps as soon as their 10-day, 10-game swing through California in April — so Megill may well become that majors/minors floater.
“We’re going to need both of them all year,” manager Buck Showalter said of the two 27-year-olds.
Peterson finished 2022 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 28 games (19 starts). With Megill about to try to do the same, here are a few takeaways from Peterson’s experience.
Listen to the bosses. Mitigating Peterson’s frustration at being sent down last season: Communication from Showalter, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and others about their plans for him. The conversations about going to the minors usually included strong hints about when they intended to bring him back to the majors, even if that was a couple of weeks away.
As he headed to Syracuse, understanding but unhappy, he had something to look forward to.
“Every time I got sent down, they had a plan,” Peterson said. “It wasn’t just, hey, thanks for your service, see you later. They gave me an inclination as to what was going to happen. That helped.
“It gives you a target instead of being in the dark. [It’s not] OK, well, I’m just going to work and when they tell me they tell me. When they give you something like that, now you can say, OK, whether it’s leading up to that or if you want to backtrack from that, what do I need to do between now and then?”
Buy into the cliché. Players say it all the time: Control what you can control. It’s a good point, but it’s trite, the sort of phrase they turn to when the cameras are on and the mics are listening and they don’t want to express their true feelings.
To Peterson, a key to success as the sixth starter is actually believing it. Instead of playing GM in his head or spiraling over his place on the depth chart, Peterson sought to control what he could control: his bullpen sessions, his weightlifting and conditioning, his performance on the mound.
“A lot of people say, oh, it’s cliché or whatever. Whether it is or not, it’s a matter of the fact,” Peterson said. “Your job is a lot easier and it’s a lot more enjoyable when you do control the things that are in your reach. It’s just wasted energy worrying about or focusing on stuff that you have no control over. When you bring it down to the simplest form, if you can do that, everything will be a lot easier.”
Stay flexible mentally and physically. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit, but this role has a way of wrecking routines.
Peterson went 10 days, for example, between starts in May. In July, he got into one game over a week and a half, switched to the bullpen temporarily, briefly appeared in relief twice and returned to Triple-A — where he made a start on short rest. August brought two more starts with a fewer-than-normal three days of rest.
The wacky schedule required Peterson to stay open-minded about what it means to be ready. Instead of following his regimented five-day routine, which wasn’t an option, he had to adapt it to those suboptimal circumstances.
For Peterson, abbreviated outings on short rest as he rebuilt up his pitch count worked, tailoring those minors outings to what he’d need for his imminent return to the majors. If he ends up in similar circumstances, Megill will have to discover what works for him.
“It’s being able to find how you can stay as ready as possible,” Peterson said. “Trying to figure out how you can keep yourself most prepared."