In his latest mailbag, MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone answers questions about Jacob deGrom, Edwin Diaz, Steven Matz, and what the Mets' bullpen could look like on Opening Day...
Why are the Mets and Jacob deGrom working to add a new pitch to his repertoire? It seems he's been doing pretty good without it. ~ Anthony M through Facebook.
I though the same thing, Anthony.
To be clear, though, deGrom is not adding a brand new pitch. He's simply working to perfect a backdoor slider (deGrom threw his slider over 31 percent of the time in 2019).
DeGrom is too smart and too skilled to let a new pitch divert him from what has worked so well for him throughout his career, though. At the very least, learning and publicizing a new pitch could get opposing hitters on their toes. Plus, it gives him a new weapon to turn to if certain things aren't working for him on a given day.
I have confidence in it playing out this way because deGrom's greatest asset isn't his grip or how he throws the baseball, which is not to say he isn't great at those two things and that they aren't important. He is and they are, 100 percent.
However, his greatest skill -- like it is for most of the game's best pitchers -- is his mental toughness and ability to understand what is working and not working for him at any given moment, quickly think it through and not fight it but adjust to get out of the moment.
It's one thing to learn a new pitch, and it's another thing to know what to do with it. DeGrom has such good baseball instincts, and he's so self-aware and quick on his feet that adding a new pitch simply gives him a bigger toolbox to pull from when things get dicey.
What will the Mets do if Edwin Diaz fails at closing out games? Don't think Jeurys Familia can do it anymore, and Seth Lugo can't do consecutive games. ~ Gabe's Dad on Twitter
What do you think the Mets will do with their rotation? I kinda think it's stupid to spend the money they did on Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha not for them to start? Kinda feel like Steven Matz could be a trade chip come July. ~ Brandon Butler on Twitter
Who will be in the Mets bullpen on Opening Day? ~ Michael G via e-mail
I bundled these three questions together because their respective answers overlap...
The first thing I'll say is it's never wise to get too locked in on any one solution because in baseball, today's problem has a way of quickly becoming a different problem.
So, while the above are hot topics and potentially legit concerns, it's possible in two weeks that two starting pitchers get injured, Diaz is looking like Mariano Rivera and you and I are looking at the state of the pitching staff in a totally different way.
That said, right now, I agree with you about Matz, who if he isn't being used as a starting pitcher would have more value to another team as a starter than he'd have to the Mets as a reliever.
In theory, I like the idea of, say, using Lugo to start a game for one or two innings, after which Matz and, say, Michael Wacha ride it out through the ninth inning and for a win. In practice, though, there is so much room for error in this scenario.
I'd actually feel more comfortable with it if from the outset if it was announced that Matz and Wacha were considered tied together and used only the same day and essentially occupy the role of one pitcher every five days. This way, Luis Rojas, his coaching staff and the team's other pitchers could prepare in the same way they would when Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard take the hill.
To do that, though, it means carrying six starting pitchers and one fewer reliever. And then what happens?
if Matz or Wacha gets rocked that day, what impact will it have on the rest of the staff?
This is why, regardless of what has been reported or whether a creative solution like the above might be the smartest move on paper, in the end, I still think Matz is in the rotation. Wacha then gets put in the bullpen, but is assured that he'll often come in to the game earlier than later, that he'll throw multiple innings, and that it will likely happen in games started by Matz.
In doing so, Rojas gets the best of both worlds, though whether this dynamic is successful might hinge on how well Wacha buys into it -- especially since he signed a one-year deal and it appears he did so because he was promised a spot in the rotation.
If you're confused, that's okay. So am I. The saving grace is what I said above, which is that it's best for everyone involved -- the pitchers included -- to just do the work, live in the moment and deal with tomorrow tomorrow.
In terms of the rest of the bullpen, and regardless of how Lugo, Matz and Wacha are spending their days, it would seem Díaz, Lugo, Matz, Wacha, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Robert Gsellman, Jeurys Familia and Brad Brach will be on the roster.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.