Mets have a David Peterson problem, but who can replace him in rotation?

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David Peterson treated art Mets Citi Field background 2021
David Peterson treated art Mets Citi Field background 2021

During his start on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, David Peterson did what he has done far too often this season -- put the Mets and the bullpen behind the eight ball while failing to provide length.

Wednesday's start was the worst of Peterson's season and the worst of his young career, as he pitched just 1/3 of an inning and allowed five runs on three hits while walking three and striking out none.

As former Mets reliever John Franco pointed out on the YouTube broadcast, Peterson was all over the place with his release points.

On Wednesday's Mets Post Game show on SNY, former Mets first baseman Todd Zeile noted that Peterson was aiming the ball as he lacked confidence in his stuff.

Wednesday's start was the fourth time this season Peterson has failed to pitch past the fourth inning. In addition to the 0.1 inning performance on Wednesday, Peterson has had starts of 1.2, 3.1, and 4.0 innings.

Peterson now has a 5.89 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 44.1 innings over 10 starts.

What makes the situation with Peterson so confounding is that he has shown flashes of brilliance this season, too, including a dominant performance against the Rays in Tampa on May 14 and a tremendous outing against the Phillies on April 14 at Citi Field when he struck out 10 batters in 6.0 innings while featuring his fastball up in the zone to go along with his wipeout slider.

Apr 27, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher David Peterson (33) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Citi Field.
Apr 27, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher David Peterson (33) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Citi Field.

As I noted Wednesday night, the Mets are kind of stuck right now when it comes to what to do with Peterson.

With Noah Syndergaard's return delayed until at least August, Carlos Carrasco out until at least late June, and the fifth spot in the rotation right now being a mix of openers and Joey Lucchesi, pulling Peterson from the rotation and creating another hole would not be ideal.

And maybe what's ailing Peterson can be at least partially fixed with some work on his mechanics between starts.

But if the Mets decide they need to give Peterson time to work things out in the minors, here's who can they turn to...

THOMAS SZAPUCKI

Szapucki, who was briefly up with the Mets last week as the 27th man but didn't pitch, is the most logical option to get a shot in the rotation.

I wrote last week that he should be given a chance in the Lucchesi/opener spot, and his subbing in for Peterson would be a similar opportunity.

The 24-year-old Szapucki has been one of the Mets' top pitching prospects since he was drafted, but he lost a large chunk of the 2017 season and the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Thomas Szapucki
Thomas Szapucki

Since 2019, Szapucki -- with the Mets being extra careful with his workload and innings -- has been working his way back.

He had a 2.63 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with 71 strikeouts in 61.2 innings across three minor league levels in 2019 before losing a year of minor league development in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mets started Szapucki in Triple-A Syracuse this season, and he's been solid -- with a 2.12 ERA and 1.65 WHIP with 18 strikeouts in 17 innings (three starts, one relief appearance).

But Szapucki -- whether by design or otherwise -- hasn't provided much length. His longest start of the season was 5.1 innings on May 13.

ANOTHER MINOR LEAGUE OPTION

If the Mets opt to go for a minor leaguer not named Szapucki, they could turn to Jerad Eickhoff, who has a 3.82 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 32 strikeouts in 33 innings over six starts this season for Syracuse.

One potential issue regarding Eickhoff is that he is not on the 40-man roster. That means the Mets -- who have lost a bunch of players recently due to injuries that necessitated replacements and 40-man moves -- would have to clear another spot.

Another option is the recently demoted Sean Reid-Foley, who worked primarily as a starter in 2018 and 2019 when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays and had been providing length and excelling in the Mets' bullpen before he was sent down.

May 17, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Sean Reid-Foley (61) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning at Truist Park.
May 17, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Sean Reid-Foley (61) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning at Truist Park.

The Mets could also give Franklyn Kilome a shot. But like Eickhoff, Kilome -- who has also been starting in Syracuse -- is not on the 40-man roster.

ROBERT GSELLMAN OR SETH LUGO

Gsellman and Lugo are listed simply because they are both on the 26-man roster and have started before. But I think it's pretty clear that the starting ship has sailed on both of them -- at least as it pertains to the Mets in 2021.

Gsellman has been great in relief this season, including when he came in for Peterson on Wednesday. And it would seem foolish to disrupt that, especially when you consider the disaster that was the Gsellman in the rotation experiment in 2020.

As far as Lugo is concerned, it's apparent that he's much more valuable in the bullpen, where he has been a dominant force capable of providing multiple innings per stint when needed.

Lugo's last foray in the rotation was not successful, and he literally just returned from elbow surgery -- which was a separate issue from the partially torn UCL he has been pitching through for years.