PHOENIX — In this stretch of torrid starting pitching to begin the season, it has been more than just the brand names propelling the Mets.
Talk all you want about Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco, but David Peterson has joined Tylor Megill as an early gift to manager Buck Showalter. The Mets entered Saturday with a 2.07 ERA from their starting rotation, which ranked first in the major leagues.
Peterson, in three appearances (two starts), has pitched to a 0.64 ERA before being optioned to Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday to make room for an extra reliever. He allowed one run over 5 ²/₃ innings Friday in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks. Megill will bring a 2.20 ERA into his start Sunday at Chase Field.
Neither Megill nor Peterson began spring training as a projected member of the rotation, but injuries to Jacob deGrom and Taijuan Walker thrust them into starting jobs.
“Competition can bring the best out of people and those two guys have taken that opportunity and run with it,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “There was no guaranteed job out of spring training. It’s more of a credit to them and their work ethic and what they did during the lockout and just continued to mature as major league players.”
Walker, who has missed two starts because of right shoulder bursitis, could return to the rotation as soon as this week. DeGrom, sidelined by a stress reaction on his right scapula, will undergo an MRI exam on Monday to determine if he can start throwing. In a best-case scenario, he would return to the rotation by late May, after building up his arm.
But even should deGrom return on cue and give the team a full complement of veteran starters, the Mets also realize there will be a need for Megill and Peterson throughout a long summer.
“In 2019 they had five starters make every start, but that is so unheard of,” said Hefner, who arrived as pitching coach the following season. “Even if we have all five of the original guys at some point there is still some chance something might happen. You need to be seven or eight deep and we have maybe the best top seven of anybody in the league, so it’s exciting for sure.”
The Mets went to No. 8 on the depth chart Saturday, when Trevor Williams was scheduled to start against the Diamondbacks. The right-hander was needed because of the rainout this past Monday at Citi Field and subsequent doubleheader on Tuesday. Williams, who was acquired along with Javier Baez at last year’s trade deadline, has worked mostly as a reliever with the Mets. Last year, he started 12 games with the Cubs.
Megill began this season with 10 ¹/₃ scoreless innings against the Nationals and Phillies before surrendering four runs early against the Giants on Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader. But Megill persevered and got through six innings without further damage. Last season, the right-hander pitched to a 4.52 ERA for the Mets in 18 starts.
Peterson, a left-hander, had a strong rookie season in 2020, but struggled last year before hitting the injured list in June with an oblique strain. Before he could return, a foot fracture was discovered that cost him the rest of the season. He finished with a 5.54 ERA in 15 starts for the Mets.
“He’s kind of fine-tuned some mechanical stuff and moving a little bit better,” Hefner said. “When you are on the IL and you are watching your teammates perform it makes you hungry and I think that’s true for Petey, because he wanted to be out there with us last year, because we felt like we were on to some things and then he got hurt a couple of times.”
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