The starting rotation was always supposed to be a strength of this Mets team.
Just a handful of days into this truncated 2020 season, it doesn’t look quite as expected because Noah Syndergaard had season-ending Tommy John surgery and Marcus Stroman is sidelined by a torn calf muscle. Still it remains a strength. In the first turn through, Mets starters turned in four very strong performances in five games.
Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Michael Wacha and rookie David Peterson all pitched at least five innings and gave up two runs or fewer for an aggregate 1.66 ERA among them. The lone clunker came from Rick Porcello, who was battered for seven runs in two innings-plus.
“I’m very much pleased with them and how they’ve thrown the ball,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Everyone has just stepped up . . . It shows these guys are prepared for the call. That’s what I can say from the first five guys that went out there. They compete and put the team in a good position to win a game.”
With the short summer camp to ramp up to the season, a number of pitchers haven’t shown the sharpness or endurance to make it through five full innings. That four Mets have bodes well.
“I like what I saw. I think we’re in a good position,” Rojas said. “They’re going to give us depth. We’re going to have a rested bullpen with what this rotation can give us. . . . We’re a week from now when we have a day off and then we’re going to play 17 straight games and the better we can rest our bullpen the [better].
“I know that stretch is going to be really key for this season.”
DeGrom and Matz were more known quantities coming into 2020. The rest were unknowns. Veterans Wacha and Porcello were signed to compete for the last rotation spot and Peterson, the Mets’ 2017 first-round draft pick, was an outside possibility.
That Peterson allowed just two runs in 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park in his debut Tuesday qualified as a huge payoff. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner called it a “a big win for the organization, for our player development system.”
“[Peterson) was unfazed and stayed aggressive the entire night,” Hefner said. “I was glad I was able to witness that. Such a special moment in this crazy time for him to make his debut and pitch so well. I was happy for him and for us.”
“This guy is ready,” Rojas said of Peterson.
Wacha spent a half dozen years as a strong performer for the Cardinals, but had one of his worst seasons for them in 2019, going 6-7 with a 4.76 ERA. His overall success inspired Hefner.
“He kind of retooled his mechanics on his own a little bit, even before he started down this path [and] he signed with us,” Hefner said. “What he's done is a credit to him. His work ethic is off the charts. I’m incredibly happy . . . [with] all the work that he's put in, to kind of see it come to fruition a little bit.”
The Mets began their second turn through the rotation on Wednesday with deGrom facing the Red Sox at Citi Field. The major issue this time through will be to get Porcello to pitch more effectively.
“Rick's outing was – and even he will describe it as – not great,” Hefner said. “We’re certainly working to fix some mechanical things or a pitch to make sure he’s locked and loaded for his next time out.”
The righthander is scheduled to make his next start on Friday in the opener of a four-game series against the Braves in Atlanta.