After one of the worst months of his major-league career, Steven Matz is available out of the Mets’ bullpen this week — and it was apparently his idea.
The Mets, with off days Monday and Thursday, don’t need a fifth starter before the All-Star break next week. Matz threw only two innings in a rain-shortened start Saturday, but felt good on the mound, leaving him wanting more. And so he and pitching strategist Jeremy Accardo pitched to manager Mickey Callaway the idea of Steven Matz, temporary reliever.
“We went to him and he’s like, ‘Sounds like a great idea,’” Matz said.
Callaway said: “I don’t think this is a knock on him. It’s more him coming to us and us thinking, oh, this sounds like it could help us out in the meantime, and we’ll figure out the rotation after the All-Star break.”
Callaway left open the possibility of Matz remaining in the bullpen to begin the second half. The Mets won’t need a fifth starter until July 20 in San Francisco.
“I mean, he's one of our top five starting pitchers at this point,” Callaway said. “But we'll do anything as an organization to try and win games. Maybe he comes out this week and helps us win two games out of the bullpen, I don't know. But, yeah, I expect that after the All-Star break. But we'll adjust if we need to.”
The reassignment comes after Matz had a 7.36 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in six June starts. This season, like in his career, he has struggled in the first inning, posting an 11.40 ERA. Callaway suggested that the opening-inning issue won’t interfere with Matz’s hypothetical effectiveness out of the bullpen because instead of facing the top of the opposing team’s lineup, Matz might get, say, the bottom of a lineup or a couple of lefthanded hitters in a row.
Matz has never pitched out of the bullpen in his 11-year professional career. Once, in Triple-A in 2015, he made what was technically a relief appearance but more of a piggyback start behind Rafael Montero, tossing five innings.
Callaway said the Mets will consider all sorts of roles — from long reliever to setup man — for however long Matz is in the bullpen. Because of Matz’s lengthy injury history, the Mets will “take care of him as far as that goes,” Callaway said. But neither party seemed too concerned about that part of such a dramatic role change.
“He's been healthy for a while now,” Callaway said. “I think those health issues are far behind him. He recovers probably better than any pitcher on our staff now. He works probably harder than anybody. So I think he'll be able to handle this, especially if we give him the right days off and things like that.”
Said Matz: “I’m ready to do whatever. I feel healthy, I feel good, I feel like all that stuff is past me. Whatever I've got to do, I’ll do it.”