ATLANTA — Lacking worthwhile alternatives, the Mets have decided to keep Jason Vargas in their rotation even after his disaster of a start Saturday, manager Mickey Callaway said Sunday.
“When you go to take somebody out of the rotation for the next guy, you have to make sure the next guy is better,” Callaway said. “We feel like we need to give Vargas every opportunity to go out there and succeed at this point. We have faith that he will. He’s done it in the past. He’s struggled and then figured it out. And we have faith that he’ll do that again.”
The Mets are, however, pushing Vargas back by one game, to Saturday in St. Louis. Jacob deGrom will start Friday in the series opener against the Cardinals. That will allow deGrom to face the Phillies on April 24, as opposed to missing them for a second series in as many weeks.
Vargas, who has a 6.34 ERA since making the 2017 All-Star Game, will throw two bullpen sessions instead of his regular one before his next start.
Against the Braves on Saturday, pitching on 11 days of rest, Vargas recorded only one out before Callaway pulled him. The Mets’ primary talking point a day later was about how he needs to be on a regular schedule, a reason similar to the one they had for Vargas’ ineffectiveness last season.
“We have confidence in him, we have confidence in this team,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “And we’re not going to make drastic changes to our club after one bad inning of a start where he had a schedule that was derailed from the start of the season.”
Callaway added: “If we can continue to put him in spots to concede — uh, to succeed — then we can try and get him on a roll.”
When it came to taking Vargas (1-0, 14.20 ERA) out of the rotation, the Mets “didn’t contemplate that at all,” Callaway said.
The Mets’ depth starter options are limited. Corey Oswalt pitched poorly Saturday in relief of Vargas. Walker Lockett is in Port St. Lucie rehabbing a sore right elbow. Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon and Hector Santiago are in Triple-A Syracuse’s rotation.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman could be turned back into starters, but at the cost of weakening the bullpen.
“It’s something that we’ll always continue to discuss and see if it makes sense at some point,” Callaway said. “But we do have to realize if we pull one of those guys out, it will significantly tax our bullpen.”
Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel remains available as a free agent. So, too, does perennial All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. The Mets have shown no inclination to add a major piece, though.
“I don’t think we operate in a world of temptation,” Van Wagenen said. “We want to go build the best team we can, we like the guys we have here. We’ll always monitor opportunities to get better, but we like the guys we have, including Jason Vargas.
“Keuchel, Kimbrel, other players that have been out there in free agency for a long time, I know, I’m sure both those pitchers could make teams better. We’ll see what happens.”
Notes & quotes: Needing a fresh arm, the Mets called up Paul Sewald from Syracuse and optioned Oswalt . . . Todd Frazier (strained left oblique) “potentially” could rejoin the Mets in Philadelphia, Callaway said.