DETROIT — Once again, the Mets are without a lefty in the bullpen.
The club made several transactions Thursday morning in order to make room on the roster for right-hander Justin Verlander, who was activated off the injured list ahead of his first start of the season, and Dominic Leone, a free agent acquisition who joined the team in Detroit.
The Mets optioned right-handed reliever John Curtiss and left-handed reliever Zach Muckenhirn to Triple-A Syracuse, they returned right-hander Jose Butto to Syracuse after the pitcher was brought up to serve as the 27th man for Thursday’s doubleheader, and they moved catcher Omar Narvaez to the 60-day IL.
The move to send Muckenhirn back to Triple-A isn’t a huge surprise, but it does leave the Mets without a left-hander in the bullpen. Manager Buck Showalter said Brooks Raley is “doing well” dealing with his elbow inflammation but he isn’t eligible to come off IL yet having been placed on there last weekend (the transaction was backdated to April 28). Showalter has previously said he would like one left-hander in the bullpen, if not two, but he’s comfortable without one.
“We’ve got people who can get left-handed hitters out,” he said Thursday at Comerica Park before the Mets played their series finale against the Detroit Tigers. “We always set it up for them, but now they’re kind of forced to in order for them to survive. I think you see that some with [Adam Ottavino]. Otto has presented himself an opportunity to get left-handed hitters out by the way he has changed some ways he goes about it.”
Ottavino has held left-handed hitters to a .270 average throughout his career, but this season they’ve hit just .105 off the big righty. Drew Smith has better career numbers against lefties (.217 average) than righties (.237) but this season that hasn’t been the case. David Robertson is currently holding lefties to a .120 average.
But those are all high-leverage, late-inning relievers. The Mets don’t have to burn them in the middle innings, but they may not have a choice until Raley returns. They could move Joey Lucchesi to the bullpen but if they do, they won’t do it right away, since the left-hander will start again Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.
“It’s not the big margin that the guy like Brooks gives us, but he’s around the corner for us, it looks like,” Showalter said.
LEONE, TIGERS AND BEARS
Leone opted out of his minor league contract with the Texas Rangers earlier this week and the Mets asked him to fly to Detroit with the chance they may need more pitching. He signed with the Mets in the Motor City on Wednesday night to complete a whirlwind few days.
The 31-year-old Norwich, Connecticut native got off to a fantastic start in Triple-A to start the season going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA over 11 1/3 innings. He felt good enough to test the free-agent waters and his gamble paid off.
“I got here hoping everything would work out,” Leone said. “And it did.”
Leone came up with the Seattle Mariners, debuting in 2014. He’s spent time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians and the San Francisco Giants. His best season came in 2021 in San Francisco, when he went 4-5 with a 1.51 ERA and two saves. He also recorded 15 holds and pitched in 19 save situations.
Carlos Carrasco (elbow bone spur) is in a holding pattern of sorts right now when it comes to his rehab. He’s expected to make a rehab start this weekend but since he’s been sick the club has not yet decided which day he will pitch.
The Mets have been dealing with a few illnesses in their clubhouse and were without assistant hitting coach Danny Barnes for the first days in Detroit. Barnes traveled with the team but was sent back to the hotel on Tuesday afternoon with a stomach virus. He returned to the team Thursday.