COMMENTARY | Zack Wheeler is primed to make his major-league debut with the New York Mets on June 18 at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves. Terry Collins recently stated he would institute a six-man rotation briefly to get New York's current starting pitchers some extra rest.
The big question is, whom will Wheeler replace once the Mets return to a standard, five-man rotation?
While Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese and Shaun Marcum are not in question to lose their rotation spots, Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner are in danger. Through the first two months of 2013, neither pitcher performed well enough to warrant keeping his rotation spot. As Wheeler's promotion neared, the threat of losing their jobs apparently motivated them to turn their respective seasons around.
After failing to pitch into the seventh inning through his first 10 starts, Gee has done so in each of his last three times to the mound. He's won three straight starts, throwing 21 innings and allowing three runs on 19 hits, three walks and 26 strikeouts.
Hefner has been solid in his last four starts, as well. He's only collected one win, but he has accumulated 25 innings pitched, allowing seven runs on 24 hits, four walks and 21 strikeouts.
With these improved performances, Terry Collins said whomever is removed from the rotation will not be sent to the minor leagues but remain with the Mets in the bullpen. It seemed Hefner was the likely candidate to vacate a spot for Wheeler at the start of the season, but his recent performance has made the decision hard for the coaching staff.
Despite what he's done recently, Jeremy Hefner should be the one heading to the Mets' bullpen. A strong case can be made for either to stay in the rotation, but Hefner has more experience coming into games as a long reliever and being on call as a spot starter. The Mets' bullpen is currently lacking a pitcher who can successfully fill those roles.
Hefner showed the ability to be flexible in the 2012 bullpen, and that's where his value is greatest for this team moving forward. Talent evaluators have projected Gee to be a better option as a fifth starter in the major leagues, and he's finally displayed that in his last three starts.
Gee's arsenal of pitches and how he uses them is more capable of controlling an opposing lineup three and four times through a lineup every fifth day. That was clear in his recent appearances against the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals. His pitch selection keeps hitters on their toes, as the probability of him throwing a changeup or slider are virtually the same (20% vs. 19.1%, respectively). Hefner is a clear fastball-slider type pitcher despite having four pitches to throw.
Gee has outperformed Hefner the last two weeks and should remain in the rotation, because he also provides more upside with his skills moving into the immediate future for the Mets.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue, Mets Merized Online, and Rising Apple. He currently serves as Executive Editor ofMetsMinors.net.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jeremy Hefner
- Terry Collins
- the Mets
- Zack Wheeler