Too good for his own good, Seth Lugo is going back to the bullpen for the greater good.
The Mets are sticking with lefthander Jason Vargas in the rotation — he’ll start Tuesday against Baltimore — and Lugo will return to his multi-inning, high-leverage setup role.
This arrangement, the Mets believe, gives them the best chance to win the most games.
“We gave it a ton of thought,” manager Mickey Callaway said Saturday. “The last week and a half or whatever it’s been has solidified what we feel is Lugo’s true value to our team at this point, and that’s being in the bullpen.”
Or, as pitching coach Dave Eiland put it: “Have you seen our bullpen without him down there? It’s common sense.”
Lugo (2.21 ERA) tossed four shutout innings against the Cubs in his first start of the year Thursday, a day after Vargas (8.53 ERA) threw five scoreless innings against the Braves on short rest.
Vargas’ struggles had the Mets rethinking his role last weekend, but the Mets’ bullpen mess of late — including an 8.42 ERA in the past nine games heading into Saturday night — highlighted Lugo’s importance there. Easing the decision was the fact that Vargas has done well in two of his past three outings.
Lugo, who has said he prefers to start, understands.
“They need me in the pen for obvious reasons,” Lugo said. “I don’t have a problem with it. I’d rather be in whatever position helps the team win. I don’t want to be selfish and fight that to try to get a start when I feel like I can play a bigger role in the pen right now. Whatever it takes to win.”
Lugo and the Mets hope he will be available in relief Sunday after tossing a season-high 60 pitches Thursday.
Bruce’s back not back
Jay Bruce was in the Mets’ original lineup Saturday but was scratched during batting practice with back tightness. He left the Mets’ loss Friday night with the same issue.
Bruce said it was a precautionary move and expects to play Sunday, the same sentiment he expressed after Friday’s game. He added that he plans to be more proactive with his stretching moving forward, especially when playing first base.
Noah vs. Yanks
The Mets are looking for righthander Noah Syndergaard (strained right index finger) to return for their series against the Yankees next weekend.
“We’re hopeful,” Callaway said. “That’d be nice against the Yankees.”
Syndergaard threw Saturday and was scheduled for a side session Sunday if he still felt fine.
Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz also are lined up to pitch in the Subway Series.
Matz is scheduled to make his start Sunday after exiting his previous outing after three innings because of a strained left middle finger . . . The Dodgers claimed lefthander P.J. Conlon off waivers from the Mets on Saturday. Conlon, a native of Northern Ireland, started two games for the Mets (seven earned runs in 5 2⁄3 innings) and was designated for assignment Tuesday . . . The Mets had another team meeting Saturday afternoon, this one not as spontaneous as Callaway’s postgame message Friday. They listened to a guest speaker, James Kerr, author of “Legacy,” a book about the All Blacks — New Zealand’s national rugby team — and lessons from their success that can be applied to life. The book is one of Callaway’s favorites.
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