Amid all of the talk surrounding the unusual nature of Major League Baseball’s opening week — for the New York Mets, this means a whopping three days off — Mets manager Terry Collins should make one thing clear: starters do not belong in the bullpen this early in a season that lasts 162 games.
The Mets’ skipper, entering his sixth season at the helm, has not denied that the team is
weighing its options. Southpaw Steven Matz, who held the Royals to just two runs in his World Series debut, may very well end up pitching in relief in game two against the Royals
after the team announced he is scheduled to start an exhibition matchup against the Chicago Cubs just before opening day.
Meanwhile, Matt Harvey, who was declared the opening day starter, told the media on Tuesday morning he is suffering from a bladder infection that led to blood clots. He said he should be ready to go by opening day in Kansas City. Noah Syndegaard is expected to pitch the second game of the two-game, season-opening series against the Royals. Jacob deGrom will likely pitch New York’s home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 8.
It is no secret that starting pitchers are creatures of habit, often grumbling at the thought of a six-man rotation that would throw off their routine and space out their starts far too often. The same goes for starters entering in relief, especially at the very beginning of the season, although most players will play it safe to the media and say they will do anything to help the team win. If the issue is whether or not the pitchers will be too inactive during the course of opening week, the Mets should make a simple adjustment and have them throw during the off days, just like they do between starts throughout the regular season.
All things considered, the only time a manager should consider using starters in relief is when the team is facing elimination at the very end of the season or during the playoffs. Notably, the Mets did use Bartolo Colon, Noah Syndegaard, and Jonathon Niese in relief during the postseason last year — when it made sense.
In an MLB season that spans three seasons of weather, 162 games, and plenty of ups and downs, it is not wise to put everything on the line in the opening series. After all, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
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