DENVER — If there was one valuable lesson the Mets learned last season, it was the need for depth of rotation.
That need was underscored during a summer stretch when Jerad Eickhoff’s backup plan allowed nine home runs over 15²/₃ innings. The Mets had hit the jackpot with the call-up of Tylor Megill, who helped keep the rotation afloat with Carlos Carrasco and David Peterson on the injured list, but it wasn’t enough, especially after Jacob deGrom disappeared for the entire IL stint was the second half of the season.
Now the Mets will try to survive without deGrom and Max Scherzer, with Megill also sidelined. Scherzer will be out for 6-8 weeks with an oblique strain and deGrom is not expected back until July as he rehabs his right shoulder blade. Megill has a biceps infection and was due to start catching on Friday before the Mets-Rockies game was postponed due to wintry conditions.
With a trade unlikely this early in the season, the depth of rotation that made the Mets feel so good about spring training is put to the test.
Here’s a look at the names you should know:
The left-hander has a 1.89 ERA in four appearances for the Mets this season and is similar to the pitcher who helped carry the rotation as a rookie in 2020, including Brave. He has since served twice for Syracuse and joined the Mets this weekend in Colorado as part of their cab squad.
“David Peterson is probably a 10 out of 10 makeup guy,” said Kevin Howard, Mets director of player development. “I’ve never seen him sulk or unhappy about anything. He’s going down there [Triple-A Syracuse] to get better and be ready for his next opportunity. We’re lucky to have guys like that.”
Barring another postponement, the Mets will likely need a starting pitcher for Wednesday in San Francisco, and Szapucki, a left-hander, is high on the Mets’ list of options.
Szapucki has a 3.00 ERA in six appearances for Syracuse. Team officials like the fact that he has demonstrated an ability to throw strikes and improved curveball control with all of his pitches. Szapucki appeared in one game for the Mets last season before undergoing ulnar artery transposition surgery.
Team officials appear to be taking start after start with the right-hander, who last shut out four innings against the Cardinals in a double-header on Tuesday.
Williams is scheduled to start in Game 2 of a doubleheader in Colorado on Saturday. The Mets will then have time (aided by a day off next week) to decide which direction to move in.
A team official recently suggested that Gray could be this year’s version of Megill: a pitcher who wasn’t heavily on the radar early in the season but who could help the Mets over an extended period of time if needed.
Gray started slow for Syracuse but has gone 11²/₃ in combined scoreless innings in his last two starts. Gray, 28, has expanded his fastball and increased his visibility within the organization.
“He went from 90 [mph], so far he’s at 93-94 so I think he’s created a lot of value for himself, a lot of hard work in that area,” Howard said. “He continues to work on a change that he has not had in recent years. He’s definitely made a name for himself with that three-pitch mix and you never know if he’s an option for us or not.”
The right-hander has not allowed a earned run in three appearances with the Mets. Most recently, he shot 2²/₃ shutout innings against the Cardinals in relief. It’s a way to stretch out when needed.
“He’s ready to start anytime, he’s ready to jump out of the bullpen,” Howard said. “I think it’s extremely valuable to have such a man with his versatility, who can play different roles and adapt to how the organization wants to use him.”
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