Seth Lugo's save to cap Friday's 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves was his last of 2019 for the Mets, but will he be back in the closing relief role next year?
New York's opener of the three-game set against the Braves (97-63) counted on Lugo to close out the final six outs and the reliable RHP repeated much of what he has done throughout his first campaign exclusively as a reliever, shutting Atlanta down with 2.0 shutout innings without a hit and two strikeouts to no walks.
Once the Mets (84-76) shift the focus to 2020 after their last two games Saturday and Sunday, what will they do with Lugo -- and how does that align with how he envisions his age-30 season?
As a reliever, Lugo went 7-4 with a 2.70 ERA and six saves, recording career-best numbers on 104 strikeouts to 16 walks over 61 games. His 80.0 innings were 21.0 fewer than the 101.1 frame logged in 2018, which led to the previous personal best of 103 strikeouts.
Lugo previously started and still thinks of his future coming with appearances every five days, but regardless of what happens, the righty made clear Friday where he wants to be.
"Ideally, just be back in this locker room," Lugo said. "I do want to start, but pitching in relief's fun. Getting a save, finishing a game -- that's a lot of fun, too. So that's kind of the way I've approached the last couple of years is, 'Yeah, starting's my No. 1 goal. But pitching in relief's fun, too.' So as long as I'm on the team, that makes me happy."
With the Mets' uncertainty among the starting rotation -- including RHP Zack Wheeler, who becomes a free agent in the offseason and expects to draw heavy interest elsewhere -- Lugo surfaces as an internal candidate for the potential void.
Homegrown by the Mets as a 34th-round pick in the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft from Centenary College of Louisiana, Lugo logged 67 starts over 99 games in the minors, going 29-24 with a 4.39 ERA and 432 strikeouts to 135 walks, while he eventually earned his place in the majors.
After three years (2016-18) with 31 starts sprinkled in his 90 games, Lugo sported a 3.44 ERA and recorded 233 strikeouts to 74 walks, but the 29-year-old became a constant for the Mets' shaky bullpen without any 2019 starts.
"Learning from last year, I think I really learned how to stay healthy and how to be at my best on a regular basis," Lugo said. "And pretty incredible what I accomplished, but I'll be around cheering the guys on the next couple of days."
Whether or not the Mets move Lugo from the bullpen, he keeps an open mind ahead of his fifth year in the big leagues.
"One of my things -- I think it helps me have success -- is I play with no expectations," Lugo said. "I know things can go bad, things can go good at any moment. So I try not to focus on that kind of stuff. I just try to go out there and give my best effort with every pitch."