Mets' Luis Rojas breaks down what will set pitchers apart in competition for fifth rotation spot

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Scott Thompson
·3 min read
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David Peterson delivers pitch
David Peterson delivers pitch

In Mets camp, a battle for the fifth rotation spot is a main focal point. David Peterson, who got the start against the Washington Nationals on Thursday, Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto are all battling for that one spot in the rotation.

How will Rojas and his staff ultimately make a decision on it? While it’s too early in camp to tell, Rojas has an idea on what will make one pitcher stand out above the rest.

“Execution of pitches. Command. Just something different from the pitcher that we know we have because everyone we have in camp is talented,” he told the media on Thursday via Zoom. “All those arms we have, everyone’s pretty good. There’s competition and sometimes the guy is better than the other in executing in camp. Sometimes the other pitcher needs to work on something to get to the point where he’s been before. It’s the execution part.”

Execution truly is what it comes down to at the end of the day because the talent is certainly there for all three pitchers. Peterson, though, has the upper hand because of his successful debut in 2020. He was the Mets’ most consistent pitcher not named Jacob deGrom last season, posting a 3.44 ERA over 10 games. In his two innings of work on Thursday, Peterson allowed just a single hit and no runs in his spring debut.

Those outings now, however, will be what Rojas views in this competition. While the past is always a good roadmap to see how a pitcher can work through the season, he wants to make sure they’re doing all the right things now.

“We got to pay attention to the recent events. What’s going on now it’s what really matters as far as making a final decision,” he said. “I mean, obviously, we do take into consideration what happened last year, the experience, the feel, everything is there. What we see now knowing that we have depth with guys in camp, we can have a little competition.

“If we’re talking about David Peterson, his poise is still there. He’s thrown the ball great in live BPs and this is part of his build up. The evaluation part of it, I don’t think we’re at that point yet. We really want him to get to his pitch count, work on his pitches, execute, do some different things out there especially at this point. It’s so early.”

For Peterson specifically, Rojas added that because he has four pitches, the coaching staff wants to make sure he has a good feel for all of them. To that point, it will show more when Peterson’s pitch count begins to ramp up as spring starts come further down the road.

Same goes for Yamamoto, who had allowed just two hits and no runs in his first two innings, and Lucchesi, who is on schedule to make his spring debut on Saturday against the Houston Astros.

And of course, there’s always the possibility that an opener is considered here. Rojas discussed the possibility of that happening, saying the team is always “open-minded.”

“We’re open-minded about it. I always say here, any strategy like that will work really well against any lineup,” he said.

It’s on the table, but the likelihood is the Mets will eventually name someone the caboose of what’s shaped out to be a formidable rotation in the National League. As pitch counts go up and the lineup turns over during starts is when the real competition starts.

“Right now, we’re ramping them up. Once we’re through that and the guys can go a couple times through a lineup and we see the command and the mix and the plan against hitters, that’s where we start modeling, ‘OK, this is what’s going to work right here.’ That’s where the competition comes into play and the evaluation,” Rojas said.