Mets RHP Robert Gsellman gave up one unearned run in seven innings during Sunday's 5-1 win against the Braves at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
Gsellman, who entered Sunday with a 5.58 ERA and had allowed three or more runs in seven of his last eight starts, shut down the Braves, retiring 19 of the first 22 batters he faced.
"He's a competitive guy, an outstanding athlete and he's being challenged by something right now," manager Terry Collins said. "He hasn't the kind of year that we anticipated or he anticipated and he's got to show us he can be one of those guys again, and today he showed us he could."
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said he thought Gsellman struggled earl this season by trying to emulate injured pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey, as opposed to focusing on his strengths.
"Sometimes, I think he tried to be like the other guys," Warthen explained, according to the Daily News. "But, he's best when he's 92 miles with sink and he's using his changeup. I think at times this season, we've seen him try too hard."
Matthew Cerrone (Twitter | Instagram | About Me): Gsellman finally mixed up his game Sunday, relying more on a new-found changeup than his sinker. He told reporters he rediscovered the pitch during his rehab and minor-league assignment earlier this season. He tried throwing it at times his last few starts, but it wasn't until Sunday that it seemed to click. He got three swings and misses out of 22 changeups. But, even more important, by using it, it made the other pitches in his arsenal more effective...
"I tried to get the sinker away from lefties as they had a lot in the lineup," Gsellman explained after the game. "I also used my changeup and I thought it worked well."
I was equally impressed by his composure on Sunday. Amed Rosario made two errors in key spots, yet Robert kept it together. He could have let himself get flustered, but he didn't. He stayed focused, pitched his game, took it moment-to-moment and got through mostly unscathed.
As I said after his previous start, it has become fair to question whether Gsellman's eight starts in 2016 were simply a fluke (considering he didn't have a sensational minor-league career and wasn't a top prospect). Or, is he still ultra-talented, but simply going through a natural hurdle in his second year, when opposing hitters, teams ,and scouts begin to make adjustments to any young pitcher.
Sunday's start -- especially seeing how effective he was with a new pitch -- indicates that he isn't a fluke. He's got the talent. It's just a matter of him keeping himself healthy, fresh and strategically ahead of every moment he's on the mound.
Gsellman's game Sunday is why he can be a perfect down-in-the-zone pitcher and a terrific counter-punch to what opposing teams get when facing Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Unfortunately, while he's had moments of success this season, he's also been all over the road, sometimes pitching well, sometimes up in the zone, sometimes in command, sometimes running scared.
Gsellman (65) delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
The story of Gsellman's season has been a bit of a grind and probably not at all what he had been expecting when arriving to Spring Training this past winter. He began the year with a decent start, then struggled and struggled. He was moved to the bullpen, then back to the rotation, then injured, he struggled in the minors, then got promoted and was finally back in the rotation.
He made two strong starts, but then struggled again and was sent to the minor leagues. Upon his return to the Mets, he had a foolish and public tiff with GM Sandy Alderson, but has since bounced back between good and bad. Now, as TC essentially states in his post-game quotes from Sunday, Gsellman is back singing for his supper. In many ways, I'm sure he'd love to erase 2017 and zoom back to life one year ago.
So, what is Gsellman and how does he factor in to 2018? From what I can tell, despite his struggles and back-and-forth with Alderson, the Mets still believe in Gsellman's potential and Sunday should have only convinced them of that point of view. The thing is, I'm not convinced they have a clear read on how use him next season.
Teams asked about trading for Gsellman this past offseason, but were essentially told he was unavailable, because he was needed as insurance. I'm sure teams will ask about him again this winter. He pitched well as a starter, but it's hard to stop imagining how his hard sinker would play as a late-inning bullpen weapon. He's been more effective in relief, but he's also only worked in seven innings and against just 31 batters. In either case, all he can do is pitch. And, as usual, Gsellman has the right state of mind...
"I am just trying to finish strong with these guys," he said to reporters Sunday, simplifying his situation. "Just get some good momentum for next spring and keep it rolling."