Their starting rotation in tatters behind two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, the Mets have decided to convert reliever Robert Gsellman into a starter. The process began on Wednesday night with the righthander assuming the rotation slot of injured Michael Wacha and taking the mound against the Nationals at Citi Field.
It didn’t start off very well, with Gsellman giving up three runs and four hits in the first inning. However it ended reasonably well with him retiring the last five Washington hitters he faced. And when he exited after two innings and 33 pitches, the Mets had a one-run lead.
Gsellman was making his first start since Sept. 27, 2017. In 29 outings as a starting pitcher he was 11-9 with a 4.60 ERA.
Manaager Luis Rojas was looking for him to throw 45-60 pitches in this first go-around with 10 relievers available on the 28-man roster, but Chasen Shreve came on to pitch the third inning.
The Mets could add 15-20 pitches per start and Gsellman could be built up into starter’s range – at least 90 pitches – early next month.
Gsellman appeared in only one game before Wednesday night. He began the season on the injured list with triceps tightness. He made his season debut with a scoreless inning of relief on Aug. 8.
Two of the four hits Gsellman gave up were hard-struck infield hits, but the big one was Juan Soto’s three-run homer in the fourth at-bat of the game. Soto unloaded on a 1-and-0 offering and it landed by the concession stands at the top of the second deck. It measured 466 feet, according to Statcast.
Gsellman steadied after striking out Asdrubal Cabrera. He got Eric Thams to hit into an inning-ending groundout.
In the second inning, he retired the side in order on 13 pitches, getting a pop-up and two fly outs.
The Mets’ rotation was going to be a strength this season but aside from deGrom, it has encountered many issues. Noah Syndergaard was lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery, Marcus Stroman suffered a calf injury in July and opted out of the season this week, just before he could make his first start. Steven Matz and Rick Porcello have combined to go 1-5 with a 6.92 ERA. And now Wacha is sidelined by shoulder inflammation.
Gsellman’s experience as a starting pitcher – he came up as one and 29 of his 33 appearances in 2016 and 2017 were starts – played a major part in the decision. Rojas said the club contemplated going with righthander Walker Lockett, who made four starts for the Mets last season, or using a reliever as an opener, but saw Gsellman as the best option in the short term and the long term. Rojas said “that’s what we’re looking for him now for this season.”
Seth Lugo has expressed a desire to move to the starting rotation, however Rojas said he is too valuable to the bullpen because of the many roles he can perform there.
“We came up with [Gsellman] because he had the experience of doing it, we feel he has the repertoire and, given the circumstances, he can fall right in into place,” Rojas said. “What he can do, going through a lineup a few times, we feel really good that he can do that.
“He’s a horse and can help us in the bullpen but with Brad [Brach) coming back (from COVID-19) it gives us more depth to plug up there and we can stretch [Gsellman] out.”