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How the Mets should shuffle their rotation as injured pitchers return

With Steven Matz and Seth Lugo due to return from their injuries, Terry Collins and the Mets have to decide how to set up their starting rotation moving forward.
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With Steven Matz and Seth Lugo due back from their injuries, it’s time for the Mets to shuffle their pitching rotation.

Outside of Jacob de Grom, there has been a lot of turmoil within New York’s starting five.

Lugo and Matz were slated to begin the year in the rotation, but opened the season on the disabled list with elbow injuries. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard were supposed to join de Grom atop the rotation, but Syndergaard went down with a long-term injury and Harvey has been mostly inefficient.

In the back of the rotation, Zack Wheeler has been just OK and Robert Gsellman has had his ups and downs, while the team has been through a handful of below-average pitchers in the No. 5 slot.

Now, with Lugo and Matz returning, the Mets rotation can make its return to normalcy. But who will they replace? Wheeler and de Grom are safe to join Lugo and Matz, leaving one open spot for either Harvey or Gsellman.

Harvey has pitched to a 4-3 record with a 5.43 ERA in 11 starts this season, while Gsellman also sits at 4-3, but with a 5.53 ERA. Neither righty has pitched well this season, but Gsellman has the hot hand. On May 13, his ERA peaked at 7.12. Since then, he has gone 3-0 in four starts and lowered his ERA to 5.53. So while his overall numbers still aren’t great, he is on the right track.

Harvey, meanwhile, has been trending in the opposite direction. He opened the season strong, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in his first four starts. Since then, he has gone 2-3 and has seen his ERA balloon up to 5.43.

If the Mets were smart, they would send Harvey packing to the bullpen and leave Gsellman in the rotation, riding the hot hand. Maybe Harvey can rediscover some life on his fastball and be more productive when pitching fewer innings. But, given Harvey’s name recognition and popularity with the fans, expect him to remain in the rotation while Gsellman heads to the ’pen.

But moving either Harvey or Gsellman to the bullpen is not the Mets’ only option. They could make an unprecedented decision to go with a six-man rotation, at least temporarily. While it is not common, there are several benefits to using a six man rotation.

Going that route allows the Mets to ease their returning starters back into the rotation, giving them extra rest and more time to adjust to the big league level. It also gives the team more time to evaluate the rest of the pitching staff in terms of who to send to the bullpen.

At one point every year, each team flirts with the idea of using a six-man rotation, but clubs seldom choose to go that route. It can throw pitchers off their routines, as most have been pitching every fifth day for most of their careers. But given the Mets’ luck with health when it comes to their pitchers, it may not be a bad idea to implement the extended rotation.

Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewelb@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4539.

Posted 12:00 am, June 9, 2017
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