(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
When looking at the New York Mets pitching staff, it is easy to be dazzled by the four aces, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz; along with closer Jeurys Familia.
The thing about winning a championship, as the Mets know last year from winning the National League title last season, is that it’s the back-end-of-the-rotation starters and middle relievers that mean just as much to winning ballgames.
One of those key pitchers is Logan Verrett, who made a spot start on Wednesday, in place of deGrom, who is dealing with a tight lat muscle in his back.
Verrett joined the Mets in the latter stages of last season, and won his debut at Colorado. He was the fourth Met pitcher to pitch at least eight innings and allow no more than four hits in his major league debut. For the season, he went 1-2 and allowed just 34 hits and 20 runs in 47 2/3 innings.
After making just one appearance this season, on Sunday against Philadelphia (1 run, 1 hit in 1 inning), Verrett pitched well against Miami.
Verrett threw six shutout innings and allowed just three hits and two walks, and struck out six.
In the fourth inning, Verrett got out of a huge jam, as Miami had two on base, via an Ichiro double and Giancarlo Stanton walk, with one out. He settled down and struck out Martin Prado and Justin Bour to get out of it.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of Verrett, “Nice job by Logan, he did what we asked him to do last year, came in and picked us up.”
Collins said of what makes Verrett suited for these situations, “Well, he knows who he is. He doesn’t try to change anything, he just tries to make pitches and that’s why, even before the game, we talked about, you know, even though he hadn’t pitched in a while for any length, how was he going to do it. I just don’t think he gets out of his plan. Once in a while, like all pitchers, he’ll make a mistake and you get hurt by it. He goes out and tries to do the best he can and locate, locate all his pitches, and when he does that, he’s effective.
Another pitcher that could be making some starts if deGrom is out much longer is Rafael Montero, who was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday. In his lone start of the season at Las Vegas, Montero did not have a decision, as he went five innings, and allowed three hits, two runs, one earned, and two walks, with five strikeouts.
Montero made his major league debut in 2014, and pitched well. as He made eight starts and came out of the bullpen twice, and went 1-3 with a 4.06 ERA. He allowed 20 earned runs and 44 hits in 44 1/3 innings.
Montero made just five appearances, and made one start last season before he was placed on the disabled list with rotator cuff inflammation.
Collins said of his impressions of progress Montero made in spring training, “Well, you know, this kid came with, when he first came to the majors, guns blazing. There were a lot of things, command is number one, and that’s one of the things we really have to see. Throwing strikes is one thing, quality strikes is something else. Here, he kind of worked the edges, he kind of fell behind in counts, slumped a little bit. The other day, gotta remember, in Vegas, they’ve only played three games. He pitched the first night, threw the ball very, very well, and we said we needed a starter, and he seemed to fit right into this particular date, so minor league people said he’s the guy, and we brought him.”
On if Montero’s issues with mind and body have been resolved, “I have no idea. I can’t tell you because we only saw him briefly in spring training. So, when we sent him out, we thought it was important for him to go pitch and work out on the things we would like him to work on. I guess at the second part of the camp, he threw the ball very well, he had a good night the other night, and we’ll see how it translates here.”
Jim Henderson has had a strong start to the season. Henderson retired the first nine batters he faced this season, with seven strikeouts before Dee Gordon singled on Tuesday night, and he suffered the loss in that game.
Henderson is a low-risk, high-reward type pitcher for the Mets, as he missed the last two years due to right shoulder surgery in 2014. In his rookie season, 2013, with Milwaukee, he saved 28 games, a Brewers rookie record.
On Wednesday, with the game scoreless, Henderson came in for the seventh inning, and allowed a sharp single to Martin Prado and walked Justn Bour and J,T. Realmuto to load the bases and that was it for his day.
Hansel Robles was next out of the bullpen, and he struck out Miguel Rojas and Derek Dietrich. Robles had a good season last year and proved himself in most tough spots.
Collins said of Robles being a key late-inning pitcher, “Well, first of all, I wasn’t going to even use him today. Before the game today, when our pitchers throw, Ricky (Bones, bullpen coach) and Dan (Warthen, pitching coach) get a feel for how they’re doing, and Addison (Reed) needed a day, and, actually, Jimmy Henderson said he felt great today, even though we saw his velocity was down, he said he felt good and we wanted to give Robles another day because of the 50 pitches the other night (Monday), but in that particular situation, that was, we just said, ‘look, we gotta bring this guy in,’ and he sucked it up and got two big, huge strikeouts for us.”
Jerry Blevins missed all of last season after he suffered a fractured left forearm on a line drive off the bat of Miami’s Dee Gordon on April 19, 2015.
Blevins is the primary left-hander in the bullpen, and he showed that on Wednesday afternoon, as he got Gordon to pop out to left field to get out of the seventh. The Mets’ offense responded, with two runs on a Kevin Plawecki hit in bottom half of the seventh to take a 2-0 lead.
Blevins stayed on for the top of the eighth and got Ichiro to pop out to left after an 11-pitch at-bat. Christian Yelich was up next, and he tot a single. That ended a streak in which Blevins did not allow a hit to the first 23 batters he faced as a Met going back to last season. After the Yelich hit, he was pulled for closer Jeurys Familia.
Familia gave up a run in the eighth on a Justin Bour RBI single, but he retired Miami in order in the ninth, closing out the 2-1 win with a Dee Gordon strikeout.
Collins was asked if he would have used Familia for 1 2/3 innings in this one if the Mets were 5-2 instead of 2-5, “I would never have done it. He would have pitched the ninth inning and that would have been it.”
Collins said of taking a risk today with the way he used his bullpen to get this win, “Every night we go out on the field, we take a risk. You know, we do it with every guy we got on the team. But, you know what, we ask our players, and I’ve told you guys (the media) in the past, once in a while, you’ve got to trust your players. Jim Henderson said ‘I feel good, I feel good today, Addison (Reed) didn’t. You know, Hansel (Robles), we told him the other day we’re gonna try to get him two days off, we just couldn’t. So yeah, but you know what, down the road, in the middle of the summer, when everybody starts to get a little bit more fatigued and again, you guys (media) get on me, I looked at the scoreboard, we have guys who’ve only thrown three or four innings, they should be okay. We didn’t wear them down in spring training, they’re okay. If they need an extra day, they’ll get an extra day, but once again, we’re talking about something now that’s gonna be written up tomorrow like, you know, we’re on the cutting edge here, we’re walking that razor blade. We’re not, we just wanted to win today. We got a day off tomorrow, we got a day to rest, we’ll be okay. You guys love the drama, I don’t love drama. I just worry about winning games.”