The Mets Get Some Help From Jason Vargas and a Few Fresh Arms

The Mets Get Some Help From Jason Vargas and a Few Fresh Arms
The Mets Get Some Help From Jason Vargas and a Few Fresh Arms

ATLANTA — The lineup card posted inside the Mets’ clubhouse before Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves had several changes. Thanks to the call-up of three new faces from the minor leagues — Tim Peterson, Scott Copeland and Buddy Baumann — the bullpen had nine relievers, more than usual. The Mets opted for a smaller bench of three players.

A curious roster decision — or, rather, indecision — the day before to not call up an additional arm from the minor leagues nearly resulted in the Mets running out of pitchers. The Mets, in the midst of a stretch of 18 games in 17 days, had a seven-man bullpen. But because of injuries and Monday’s doubleheader, only five relief pitchers were available on Tuesday. They used four of them after starting pitcher Steven Matz exited early with a finger injury, and the fifth available reliever was warming up in the bullpen when the team lost with the rookie relief pitcher Gerson Bautista on the mound.

On Wednesday, the Mets (27-26) made sure to have plenty of pitchers against the Braves (32-23), with Jason Vargas starting on short rest because of a finger injury to Noah Syndergaard. Vargas provided a big boost with five scoreless innings, arguably the best start of his rough season, and lowered his earned run average to 8.53.

Vargas fired 65 pitches before tiring and Mets Manager Mickey Callaway called on Peterson, 27, the only one of Wednesday’s three new pitchers who was with the organization when the season began. In his major league debut, Peterson allowed one run over two innings.

“We’ve had some unfortunate situations here arise,” Vargas said of his exit. “It was the right decision.”

Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman and Peterson brought stability on Wednesday to a Mets bullpen that was the main culprit in their previous six losses. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez and center fielder Brandon Nimmo provided the offense with two runs driven in each. A double play started by diving shortstop Amed Rosario and turned by second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to escape an eighth-inning jam was critical.

“That was the play that saved the game,” Cabrera said.

It also eased the pressure on a team that watched its already-thin pitching depth fade two months into the season.

On Tuesday, the Mets could have called up a relief pitcher from Class AAA Las Vegas to take Syndergaard’s spot on the roster. They announced at 1:28 p.m. that Syndergaard was headed to the disabled list, after he met with team doctors.

John Ricco, the Mets’ assistant general manager, said the team was originally unsure if Syndergaard would land on the disabled list and there was not enough to bring in another pitcher.

“With the travel coming from across the country, we can’t get a guy here in two hours,” Ricco said. “That has to be made a little bit in advance to get a guy in.”

Distance may no longer be an issue beginning next season, when the Mets’ Class AAA affiliate will be in Syracuse, N.Y., but the Mets still could have flown in a potential replacement just in case.

Syndergaard’s finger was bothering him since his start on Friday and when he threw a bullpen session on Monday. And in between games of Monday’s doubleheader, Callaway told Seth Lugo that he was moving from the bullpen to the rotation to start on Thursday.

When Matz was knocked out of Tuesday’s game after three innings with a mild strain of his left middle finger, the Mets emptied their bullpen of available relievers.

The Mets’ call-up options were limited because of performance, space on the roster and injury. To help build the 2015 and 2016 playoff teams, the Mets traded away some of their pitching prospects. Entering this season, the Mets’ farm system was ranked fourth-worst by Baseball America.

The Mets’ best current pitching prospects are in the lower levels of the minor leagues. Beyond Paul Sewald, Lugo and Gsellman, the team has failed to develop more reliable major league pitchers. To help fill the need, the Mets traded veteran players on expiring contracts for seven minor league pitchers.

“As we got to this long stretch of games, we knew it would be taxed,” Ricco said of the Mets’ pitching depth. “We’ve had a few recent injuries that have taxed it even further. I was just counting up: I think we’ve made 17 roster moves in the past four days. That’s going to tax any team’s depth.”

Ricco said the Mets’ pitching would be in better shape in the near future. Syndergaard is expected to miss only one start. Matz is considered day-to-day and was not placed on the disabled list. Anthony Swarzak, a key Mets relief pitcher, may return next week from his oblique injury. Perhaps some normalcy will return, too.

INSIDE PITCH

The Mets named two new Citi Field public address announcers for the rest of the 2018 season: MARYSOL CASTRO and COLIN COSELL. The two will split the duties and debut this weekend. Cosell, a sports broadcaster, is the grandson of renowned broadcaster Howard Cosell. Castro, a television reporter and anchor, will become the Mets’ first female public address announcer. “I appreciate the Mets for doing something they’ve never done in franchise history,” Castro said in a team-issued statement.

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