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During his rookie season in 2020, Mets left-hander David Peterson showed that he could potentially be a staple at the back end of the rotation for years to come, posting a 3.44 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 49.2 innings and displaying a knack for wiggling out of jams.
While Peterson was impressive in 2020, his advanced numbers -- including a 4.52 FIP -- suggested he could be due for some regression in 2021.
What's happened in 2021, though, has gone beyond simple regression and has put Peterson's immediate future in the rotation in question.
After the disaster that was Peterson's start on Tuesday against the Orioles in Baltimore, he has now failed to pitch at least five innings in six of his 11 starts this season, including lasting just 2.2 innings on Tuesday after being knocked out after only 1/3 of an inning on June 2 against the Diamondbacks in Arizona.
The combination of Peterson being unable to provide length or prevent runs is alarming, and his ERA for the season is up to 6.32 to go along with a 1.51 WHIP.
And it hasn't been bad luck doing him in.
Peterson has not been able to command his pitches with any regularity, with walks being his undoing against the Diamondbacks and badly located (middle middle) pitches being his undoing against the Orioles, who made tons of hard contact against him.
Speaking after Tuesday's game, Mets manager Luis Rojas said Peterson's fastball continues to be a weapon, but noted how badly he has struggled when it comes to locating his secondary offerings, which are often well out of the strike zone or right in the middle of the plate.
Still, Rojas said the plan is for Peterson to make his next start. And it's not hard to see why the Mets' rotation decision on Peterson is so difficult, even if it's hard to justify throwing him back out there right now.
Who replaces him?
Beyond that, it's dicey.
In addition to Peterson's struggles in the No. 4 spot, the Mets have been using a combination of Joey Lucchesi and openers in the No. 5 spot. And while Lucchesi has been better recently, he'll enter Sunday's start with a 5.79 ERA for the season.
And since the situation with Lucchesi is also tenuous, the Mets pulling Peterson from the rotation right now and replacing him with an unknown wouldn't be ideal.
The most logical option to replace Peterson is prospect Thomas Szapucki, who has a 2.05 ERA and 1.41 WHIP with 25 strikeouts in 22 innings in five games (four starts) this season for Triple-A Syracuse.
Szapucki is on the 40-man roster but has not yet pitched in the majors. What happens if the Mets promote Szapucki while demoting Peterson, and Szapucki isn't ready?
Help is not on the way
Giving Peterson some time to work things out in the minors would be an easy call if both Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard were close to returning. It would arguably be an easy call if just one of them were close to returning.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Carrasco is likely a month away and the best case scenario for Syndergaard's return could be late August.
Carrasco, who has been slowed down after initially being expected to return from his hamstring injury in May, has been throwing bullpen sessions and could theoretically be back on a rehab assignment some point soon. But that doesn't appear to be imminent.
The Mets are also without Jordan Yamamoto, who is on the 60-day IL and won't be back until late July at the earliest.
If Peterson makes his next start as expected and again fails to provide length while getting hit hard, the Mets' hand might be forced when it comes to replacing him -- at least temporarily.
Peterson's next start is expected to be next week against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field.
Hopefully for the Mets and Peterson, he rights the ship against the Cubs. If not, it's hard to see him getting another chance.