MILWAUKEE — The Mets need a spot starter for their day-night doubleheader Monday in Atlanta, and they might get creative with it.
Manager Mickey Callaway said the club is considering using a high-leverage reliever such as Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo to begin the night game before handing the ball to a traditional starter after an inning or two.
That is a strategy the Rays have experimented with recently and will toy with again this weekend, using Sergio Romo (or another reliever) as a so-called “opener.” The idea is that to hold your opponent scoreless in the first — usually the highest-scoring inning of a game — a very effective reliever is a better option than a back-end or substitute starter.
“It makes sense to me if you’re going to be in a situation like we might end up being in that second game,” Callaway said. “To get through those first three or four batters in the first inning will mean a lot in that game. It might make sense. The reason [the Rays] did it is so whoever they started, or were going to start, faces the bottom of the lineup three times and the top of the lineup twice, to maximize those two pitchers’ ability to get through six innings.
“That makes some sense to me if it’s the right pitchers. Now, you have to have the right guy starting the game, because if you give up runs in that inning, then none of it works. But I understand why they’re doing it.”
Traditional starter options include Chris Flexen, who is in the major-league bullpen as a long man. Corey Oswalt, who was scheduled to start Monday, would have been another option, but he landed on the Triple-A disabled list with lat tightness.
Jacob deGrom will start the day game in the doubleheader, Callaway said.
Hanley a non-starter
The Mets do not have interest in first baseman Hanley Ramirez, sources said. Ramirez was designated for assignment Friday by the Red Sox and is expected to be released next week.
Ramirez has struggled to the tune of a .254/.313/.395 slash line this year after offseason shoulder surgery. He hits lefties well but is limited defensively, and the Mets already are heading toward a roster crunch when Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier return.
Expect catcher Devin Mesoraco to continue to get the bulk of the playing time when Kevin Plawecki (fractured left hand) returns, at least in the beginning. Callaway said Plawecki will catch once every two or three days when he returns from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas . . . Cespedes (strained right hip flexor) began a running program Friday, Callaway said. The Mets have not decided whether Frazier (strained left hamstring), who began running Thursday, and Cespedes will go to Atlanta with the team Sunday night or head elsewhere for rehab assignments.