WEST PALM BEACH – Coming into spring training, we were all told the Mets fifth starter role would be a competitive battle with a trio of pitchers having a legitimate shot at gaining the spot. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and Zack Wheeler were all in the mix. As of right now, Robert Gsellman is the odds on favorite to land that spot based on performance.
It certainly appears as though Wheeler will need more time in an extended spring training while Seth Lugo spent time at the WBC so Terry Collins has not had the chance to see him throwing up close for a few weeks. In the meantime, Gsellman has hurled 17.1 innings of spring training ball to the tune of a 1.56 ERA showing command of his pitches coupled with extreme poise on the hill.
Today he competed against a Nationals lineup that despite missing Daniel Murphy who is not yet back from the WBC, had power bats in the order that he neutralized throughout the day. After the game, Terry Collins said that the performance was self-explanatory but was careful to include Lugo in the discussion as well as highlighting the duo’s importance to the team’s playoff run last September.
Terry knows a lot can still happen in a week and is aware the media will dissect every word he utters to try to get the read on that 5th spot in the rotation. If the season was starting tomorrow, I’d say Gsellman would get the spot but possibly either Lugo or Gsellman might come north as a reliever so both arms are in Terry’s arsenal.
The fact that we are debating the 5th spot with a trio of arms the caliber of Lugo, Wheeler, and Gsellman speaks to the depth of this staff with the quartet of Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz starting the first 4 games of the season in all likelihood. It also speaks to the depth Sandy Alderson has given Terry Collins both at the plate and on the mound. Deciding on who plays is a tough decision for the Met manager but it sure beats the alternative-not knowing where to turn.
From the top to bottom, this is the deepest Met team I can recall since the 80’s. That depth will get this team through the tough times that comes with a 162 game season and the competition for this 5th spot is a shining illustration of that fact.