PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Seth Lugo is fighting for the fifth spot in the Mets’ rotation. But he is doing it from Jalisco, Mexico.
The righthander took a step forward on Friday night when he threw 5 1⁄3 innings of one-hit ball in Puerto Rico’s 11-0 mercy-rule win over Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Lugo, who is battling Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman for the fifth spot, did not walk a batter and struck out three against a lineup that included All-Stars Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez and Victor Martinez.
“Against that lineup, you better believe it [matters],” manager Terry Collins said. “Those national teams, they’re playing for a little integrity. To shut down that lineup, that’s pretty impressive.”
Asked if he watched it on TV, Collins said: “No. Anything that’s on after eight o’clock, I’m done.”
Mets infielder T.J. Rivera ended the game for Puerto Rico with a two-run home run in the seventh.
The Mets are playing the Tigers on Sunday in Lakeland, but Collins is not bringing any of his regulars. After two split-squad games in three days and with a shortage of bodies because of the WBC, Collins is looking to give his main guys a day off.
“Guys are dragging,” he said. “This week was an awful situation for us with the five games in three days. No place can you ask your starting guys to go out there that much and we’ve asked them a lot. Same with our rotation. We are going to bring them along slow, certainly make sure they have the rest they need in spring training so when we get out of here, we’re on the upswing and not saying somebody’s tender and, ‘Gosh, can he start, can he not?’ ”
Nine players were sent back to minor-league camp in the first cuts of spring. The most notable was first baseman Dominic Smith, who hit .185 with 10 strikeouts in 27 spring training at-bats.
The others were pitchers P.J. Conlon, David Smith, Kevin McGowen, Corey Taylor and Logan Taylor, infielders Phillips Evans and Luis Guillorme and outfielder Champ Stuart.
Collins praised reliever Paul Sewald, who threw two shutout innings and has a 1.29 ERA in five appearances, and said the 26-year-old righthander is in the mix (along with many others) for a bullpen spot . . . Hall of Famer Mike Piazza will report to camp on Monday to begin a stint as a guest instructor.