Steven Matz will not start on Tuesday.
Matz is battling a stiff back. He’s going to throw a bullpen today to see how it feels. If he can’t go on Tuesday, it will be Syndergaard.— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) April 29, 2018
The Mets aren’t taking any chances with Matz. Callaway says they will push him to the back of the rotation. Matz will pitch Saturday. If he feels good, he’ll be available out of the pen on Tuesday.— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) April 29, 2018
This is fine.
There is absolutely zero reason for the Mets to push Matz this early in the season. Despite his tough start -- 4.98 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in five starts -- Matz still has upside. Sure, with each rough start, it has become harder and harder to find the find the silver lining. But a lefty that throws the ball in the upper 90s is going to have to be rendered completely useless before any team gives up on him, so it behooves New York to try to keep him healthy.
But outside of the obvious health benefits of not rushing a player out on the field and risking further injury (amazing how effective that can be, right?) any number of good can come out of skipping Matz's turn.
If they're being cautious, the Mets would probably be better off not putting Matz on the mound at all on Tuesday, but if he does get a shot out of the bullpen, I think it could do wonders for him. Matz has been so reluctant to go after hitters, and it has shown in his walk rate. Matz has issued 10 free passes over the span of the 95 batters he has faced his five starts. That's a 10.5 percent walk rate. In contrast, he walked 6.3 percent of batters (19 in 298 batters) in 2017, and 5.6 percent (31 in 547 batters) in his last good campaign, the 2.5 WAR season of 2016.
In the bullpen, Matz wouldn't be afforded the luxury of nibbling. Just like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have learned to attack hitters while airing it all out with their best stuff for one-to-two innings, Matz could do the same. There is no guarantee Matz would enjoy the same success as Gsellman and Lugo, but at this point, it might be worth a shot, even if it's just temporary.
It would also a major benefit for the structure of the Mets' pen. This team has navigated March and April utilizing just one lefty in relief (Jerry Blevins). Prior to Friday's game, they claimed Buddy Baumann off waivers from the Padres just to have another LOOGY with Major League experience in the organization. A second left hander in the pen would afford Mickey Callaway some options, and it could pay huge dividends if Matz finds success.
Plus, there's the rotation benefit. Getting back to Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom -- both of whom will be on regular rest, thanks to Monday's off day -- in the rotation isn't going to leave anyone yearning for Matz in his current form. And with the Braves just a game and a half back in the standings, this home series is a big one.
Whether Matz, the ultimate enigma in his last two MLB seasons, can get it sorted out is anyone's guess. But Tuesday's skipped start may be a building block to get things moving in a positive direction.
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