The Mets are committed to keeping Logan Verrett in the starting rotation, despite adding Jon Niese to the 25-man roster, Terry Collins told reporters Tuesday.
During his nine-year career, Niese has made 195 starts (4.01 ERA) and 10 relief appearances (3.65 ERA), including six for the Mets during last year's postseason.
According to Collins, Niese will primarily work as a relief pitcher, as he did Tuesday night, when he allowed one run and two hits (solo home run) in two innings. However, he could be used for a possible spot start in the coming weeks.
In 12 career starts, Verrett, 26, is 4-8 with 3.97 ERA through 127 innings, during which he has a 1.27 WHIP and 92 strike outs. He has a 2.81 ERA in 18 relief appearances this season.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head when first hearing that the Mets re-acquired Niese. However, the Mets were looking for an experienced relief pitcher, who can throw more than one inning a night, believeing they could replace Matt Harvey's missing 80-90 innings with a combination of Verrett and a new, swingman-style reliever. I never thought the new pitcher would be Niese. The thing is, he is actually a good fit.
He will give length to the bullpen, while making the occasional spot start (either because of off days or to get rest for the team's other starting pitchers). I've been hard on Niese as a starting pitcher. But, with his four-pitch arsenal, experience in New York, and willingness to pitch in the pen, I think he can help this team succeed as a reliever.
Terry Collins' bullpen has been successful this season, ranking fifth in MLB in ERA and WAR, but it has been top-heavy with Addision Reed, Jeurys Familia, and Hansel Robles each logging over 50 innings. A weak collection of middle relievers, spear-headed by the now-departed Antonio Bastardo, has resulted in more close games making it difficult for Collins to give his best relievers a fews days off when games are tight.
Bastardo's struggles also put a heavy burden on Jerry Blevins, the team's only dependable lefty. Blevins has been fantastic, with a 2.54 ERA and a 10.2 K/9, but he's racked up 49 appearances, many of them high-leverage.
Edgin hasn't pitched in the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, but he had a 2.57 ERA the previous two years and a 2.20 ERA in Triple-A this season. He still walks too many batters and he won't see the pivotal game moments like Blevins. However, having a second lefty-specialist will give Collins the flexibility to sit Blevins in low-key games, plus bring in a specialist during multiple points in a game.
As unimpressed as people are with the return of Niese, he does fill the role of long reliever, something the Mets have lacked completely since Verrett joined the rotation. No one should be happier to hear this news than Robles, who has pitched two or more innings in nine different games this season. Allowing Robles to transition back to full-time seventh inning role will keep him fresh and effective through the end of the season (and, hopefully, the postseason).
The big question is what the Mets will get out of Niese, who struggled so badly as a Pirate they traded him back to the Mets for basically nothing. The good news is that as long as he's kept away from the rotation, there's reason to believe he can fill a middle relief role effectively. His struggles as a starter this season largely coincided with drops in velocity and his abandoning of various pitches, particularly his curveball. Shorter stints will allow him to throw harder and also get away with being a two-pitch pitcher.
Edgin and Niese are not game-changers, but each bring a different look that can help Collins shuffle around some innings and highlight the strengths of Blevins, Robles, Familia and Reed, all of whom will be needed during the final stretch of a playoff run.