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New York Mets Should Continue Making Changes to Starting Rotation

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COMMENTARY | After Matt Harvey out-dueled Stephen Strasburg Friday night at Citi Field, the New York Mets were hoping to see both Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee get back on track over the weekend against the Washington Nationals. Only Gee was able to do so, throwing 5.2 shutout innings on April 21 to get his first win of the season.

Before the Mets took yesterday's rubber match from the Nationals, southpaw Aaron Laffey was designated for assignment, with reliever Robert Carson being recalled from Triple-A. This move was an anticipated one, as Laffey coughed up a 5-3 lead in a relief appearance on April 20, surrendering a three-run homer to Adam LaRoche. That sealed his fate in Flushing, with his season ERA and WHIP skyrocketing to 7.20 and 2.10, respectively. He appeared in four games (two starts) and yielded underwhelming results, allowing 16 hits in 10 innings pitched, with opposing batters hitting at a .390 clip.

Since the Mets technically don't need a fifth starter for the rotation until they face the Philadelphia Phillies this Saturday, the organization decided to bring up another reliever for the time being to help out a struggling bullpen. The hope is that Shaun Marcum will be ready to come off the disabled list and make his debut this weekend. The last hurdle in his rehab will be getting through today's assignment, which involves throwing 70-75 pitches off the mound. However, even once Marcum comes back, more moves need be made to shake up the starting rotation, and it should include moving Hefner to the bullpen.

I was hoping Hefner would be able to show he can hack it in the rotation for half the season (or whenever New York decides to promote Zack Wheeler), but it's not working out very well. In four games (three starts), the right-hander is 0-2 with a 7.07 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 14 innings pitched. During that time, he's walked eight batters, and has also allowed seven home runs. Without Laffey in Flushing any longer, there is no true long reliever that can eat up innings in case a starter has a rough night and can't go deep into a game. Hefner bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in 2012, and while he was inconsistent overall, he was more valuable to Terry Collins as a reliever/spot starter. Outside of his first start this season, Hefner hasn't had an outing of his last more than four innings. That'd be perfect if he was a long reliever, but not as the team's fifth starter.

The next question would be, if not Zack Wheeler (which it doesn't look like just yet), then who should get a shot in the rotation to take Hefner's spot? That would be Collin McHugh; while he didn't have a great camp in Port St. Lucie (0-1, 9.64 ERA, 2.14 WHIP in 4.2 IP), he's been dominant in his first four starts for the Las Vegas 51s. In the Pacific Coast League, which notoriously favors hitters, McHugh has put together a 2-0 record with a 1.93 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 18 strikeouts, and only four walks in 23.1 innings pitched.

Why should the Mets give McHugh a chance and move Hefner to the bullpen? New York's offense has been exceeding expectations throughout the first three weeks of the season, being at the top or near the top in most of the major categories. Despite that, they're only 9-8 on the season, sitting in third place in the NL East because they're 7-1 when either Harvey or Jonathon Niese takes the mound, but 2-7 when anyone else does. Who knows how long this offensive production will last, so they need to make the most of it while they're scoring a lot of runs, not wasting these efforts with lackluster starts.

I'm usually a big supporter of letting players work out of their rough patches, especially since we just saw Dillon Gee do just that in his last start. Unfortunately for Hefner, I think his best role with the team right now is in the bullpen. With Marcum poised to make his debut this weekend, New York needs to continue making changes to fortify their rotation as they wait for Wheeler. Looking at what McHugh has accomplished in his first four starts in comparison to what Hefner has done, he has more potential right now to help the Mets win baseball games as a starter, and he deserves a chance to prove himself.

Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.

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