DENVER — With their season on the fritz, the Mets are ready to cede to Noah Syndergaard’s catcher preferences for at least one game, manager Mickey Callaway said Tuesday.
Syndergaard will pitch to third-string catcher Rene Rivera in his start Wednesday against the Rockies. That is a total reversal from Mets decision-makers’ insistence last week that Wilson Ramos’ bat was needed in the lineup and Syndergaard should be able to pitch well no matter who is behind the plate.
Callaway said “a lot of different circumstances” went into that decision. Among the variables the manager mentioned were that Wednesday is a day game after a night game — though the Mets have been comfortable lately with Ramos starting on both ends of those back-to-backs — and that the Mets are playing at a high altitude in the Mile High City.
“Where we’re at right now, we need Noah to pitch well,” said Callaway, repeating nearly verbatim what he said last week on this topic, before pairing Syndergaard and Ramos again. “We needed him to pitch well last time, and we thought that was going to be the combo that did it on that day with a lefty starting and everything against us.
“We try to do that every time, put ourselves in the best position to succeed and we feel that [Wednesday], given all of the circumstances, that this will help us.”
It doesn’t hurt, either, that on Wednesday the Mets will face Rockies righthander Jeff Hoffman, who has a 7.03 ERA. Offense hypothetically won’t be difficult to come by, with or without Ramos.
As he has expressed to his bosses periodically this season, Syndergaard prefers backups Tomas Nido and Rivera over Ramos. Ramos is considered not as strong defensively, particularly at receiving pitches low in the zone, usually critical to Syndergaard’s game plan.
Rivera was Syndergaard’s personal catcher in 2016 — the righthander’s only All-Star season — and in their only combined start this year, Syndergaard tossed seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts against the Nationals on Sept. 2.
Last week, after several days of headlines about Syndergaard and catchers, he pitched to Ramos, allowing the Dodgers four runs in five innings. Afterward, Syndergaard said, “We were really meshing and flowing out there,” with Callaway noting that “it seemed like the rhythm was good.”
Not good enough, though, for Ramos to start Wednesday. The Rivera arrangement means the Mets’ three catchers are each starting one game this series, with Nido in the lineup Monday night and Ramos on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, it’ll be Rivera’s turn.
“We think that Noah is going to pitch well for him, or with him,” Callaway said.
Syndergaard is scheduled for two more regular-season starts after Wednesday.
Nimmo is No. 1
Brandon Nimmo batted leadoff for a second day in a row Tuesday, a return to the lineup home that the Mets had planned for him coming into the season.
That hasn’t been the case — with Nimmo struggling at the start of the year and then being out with a bulging disc for more than half the season — but he has been in top form since returning. Heading into play Tuesday, he had reached base in 20 of 43 appearances since returning from the injured list, posting a .241/.465/.655 slash line in 14 games.
Much more like the Nimmo the Mets had and enjoyed last year.
“He was obviously out of sorts” due to a bulging disc in his neck early this season, Callaway said. “But he's going to get on base and he's going to hit because he has a great approach.”
Callaway added that Nimmo is “more than capable enough” to be the Mets’ everyday centerfielder in 2020.
J.D. Davis has a new nickname, courtesy of Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith: The Sun Bear. That is meant to be a companion of sorts to The Polar Bear, Alonso. The sun bear is a real bear species, found in part of Asia. … Davis was sore but fine Tuesday after hitting the leftfield wall hard while making a catch Monday night, Callaway said. He was available off the bench. … The Mets are planning to keep their rotation in order, Callaway said, passing on a chance to rejigger it with a day off Thursday.