He is competing for the final spot in the starting rotation with Jenrry Mejia, who pitched five innings and held the Nationals to just one run, while striking out five batters Sunday. Matsuzaka starts against the Cardinals on Monday.
John Lannan, who was also competing for a starting job early in camp, will likely head to the bullpen as the team’s second lefty, Terry Collins said earlier this spring (MetsBlog, Feb. 19).
Dillon Gee is expected to get the Opening Day start, with Bartolo Colon and Zack Wheeler following him. Jon Niese will likely begin the season on the disabled list, but make his first start when the Mets need a fifth starter on April 6 (MetsBlog, March 20).
March 19: Mejia deserves to be in the rotation. He’s earned it. However, my understanding is that, because Matsuzaka can opt out if not on the roster by May 1, and because he could actually have trade value if he pitches well, and because Mejia has a history of injury and is lacking innings experience, it’s easier to just demote Mejia and keep Matsuzaka where he pitched well at the end of 2013.
The question is: Will the Mets keep Mejia as a starting pitcher or make him a reliever to possibly help the big-league bullpen sooner than later?
Team insiders have said they will huddle late in spring training to decide Mejia’s fate, because they no longer want to keep shifting his role (ESPN NY, Mar. 18). I still believe they’ll choose to make him a starting pitcher, mostly because he’s done it well and starting pitchers are clearly viewed as more valuable considering how much more money they make than relievers. The only justifiable argument for making him a reliever would be that the team believes his arm and health are better suited for the bullpen, given the amount of innings and preparation to pitch. Otherwise, if he can start, he should start.