Jason Vargas was in a 2019 state of mind. Or at least the Mets hope as much.
It should come as no surprise that a team that has been eliminated for 10 days is thinking about 2019, but on Thursday, Mickey Callaway put together a road map for some of the less established members of his pitching staff and doubled down on the belief that Jason Vargas could be a valuable part of his rotation.
Hours later, Vargas bolstered his argument in his best outing in more than a year, allowing three hits in seven shutout innings in a 4-1 victory over the Braves, with no walks and six strikeouts, and dropping his ERA to a season-low 5.77. It was his longest start since June 2017.
“He’s righted the ship and showed us who we thought he was,” Callaway said. “I think the rough patch we saw this year was probably due to his routine and breaking his hand and things like that. Once he’s settled in, we’ve seen that guy that we’ve seen in the past and he’s historically been, and that’s the reason we signed him.”
Callaway believes the key is a consistent schedule, which Vargas hasn’t seen much of this season — partially thanks to his own failures and partially because of injury. Vargas (7-9) posted a 2.42 ERA in his final eight starts and contributed all three of his 2018 quality starts.
Said Callaway, “I think he’s going to take pride that he finished strong and know that when he was on his routine, he could still be successful, and I think he’s also going to be motivated to come back and be better than ever because it wasn’t the season he wanted to have overall.”
Vargas isn’t the only one in the Mets’ plans. Seth Lugo will spend the offseason training as a starter and could be in the rotation in 2019, depending on the moves the front office makes in the offseason, Callaway said. The Mets also have been impressed with Corey Oswalt’s flexibility, and he could be used in the same way next year as he was this year.
“You can embrace [all the adjustments] and do the best you can and overcome it to put yourself in a position at some point in the future to be able to stay every single day,” Callaway said he told Oswalt. “Or you can let it affect you . . . I think he’s adjusted pretty good.”
Notes & quotes: Noah Syndergaard (illness) is improving and is expected to pitch the season finale on Sunday, Callaway said . . . The gates will open at 4:30 p.m. for batting practice Saturday for fans who wish to watch David Wright hit.