Zack Wheeler discusses his outing vs. the Yankees on Wednesday, March 7. Matt Ehalt/NorthJersey.com
The Mets break camp in less than two weeks, and these remaining Grapefruit League games will help the team craft its 25-man roster.
The biggest decision for the Mets will be selecting the fifth starter, and this week should help provide some clarity. The Mets want to choose their candidate sooner rather than later since they want to try those not in the rotation as possible relievers.
Noah Syndergaard, who will likely start Opening Day, starts Tuesday’s afternoon game against Houston, and Zack Wheeler starts the nightcap against the Nationals. Wheeler’s start is the one to keep an eye on since his role is uncertain.
Steven Matz entered camp as the favorite for the fifth spot, but he produced two recent clunkers that raised eyebrows. Matz finally got on track last Friday with four scoreless innings against the Tigers, and he’s slated to start Wednesday against the Marlins.
That fifth spot figures to be decided between Wheeler and Matz, and Wheeler can turn up the heat by stifling the Nationals. Wheeler produced his best outing of camp last time out when he threw three scoreless innings against the Yankees.
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The Mets also have to decide which three relievers will claim the final bullpen spots. The team’s late-innings quartet of AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Jeurys Familia and Anthony Swarzak have all secured spots, and Paul Sewald seems a lock to make the roster.
Candidates for those last three spots include Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Jamie Callahan, Matt Purke, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Wheeler. The odds are against the Mets using Matz as a reliever due to his long history of injuries.
Rhame and Purke have pitched the best of those who are strictly relievers, while Lugo and Gsellman have impressed. Of those final three spots, it’s possible the Mets could go with two multi-inning relievers and one traditional reliever like Purke or Rhame.