Even before the first official workouts of spring training begin in about two weeks, the Mets will be keeping an eye on their starting rotation depth.
That is a sound philosophy for any team, given the fragile nature of elbows and shoulders in particular, but the Mets are headed to Port St. Lucie, Fla., with three starting pitchers above the age of 35, two of which (Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco) have spent significant time on he injured list during their respective tenures with the team. The third, Justin Verlander, is coming off a Cy Young award year with the Astros after missing essentially two full seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.
In winning 101 games last season, the Mets received 37 starts combined from David Peterson, Tylor Megill and Trevor Williams. If the Mets need that kind of coverage again, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is confident the team has the answers: Peterson and Megill are returning, and the Mets have multiple arms — Elieser Hernandez and Joey Lucchesi among them — to potentially replace Williams, who signed with the Nationals in December.
Peterson and Megill, specifically, have shown they are worthy of starting rotation consideration.
“What a blessing it is for us,” Hefner told The Post. “Maybe not a blessing for them, because in a lot of ways they are on the outside looking in, but things change all the time in this game, so if those guys start the year in Triple-A, we have two guys that probably deserve to be in the big leagues just from their past performance and their stuff.”
Peterson went 6-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 19 starts for the team last season and appeared in another nine games as a reliever. Megill was sharp early — he was the Mets’ opening night starter in Washington — pitching to a 1.93 ERA in five starts in April before right biceps inflammation derailed him. After returning in June, he incurred a shoulder strain that kept him sidelined until late September.
“Stretching out Peterson and Megill in spring training is important and having them readily available in case something happens — and we’ll kind of see how the season unfolds — and I would imagine their roles would be similar,” Hefner said.
“If we have five starters make every single start all year they will be in the bullpen at some point, but that rarely ever happens. We need those guys. To do the things we want to as a team we need them to be the studs that they are.”
Hefner is still learning about the 27-year-old Hernandez, who was acquired in a trade with Miami. Last season the right-hander pitched to a 6.35 ERA in 20 appearances for the Marlins. As a starter, Hernandez pitched to a 5.98 ERA in 10 appearances.
The lefty Lucchesi spent last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery after showing flashes of potential for the Mets in 2021. The Mets will have to decide whether Lucchesi would be best served stretched out as a starter for Triple-A Syracuse or working from the bullpen in the major leagues.
“I think all options are on the table for him,” Hefner said. “I think Joey could be in that Megill/Peterson bucket, but he also could be a long man. He is deceptive, batters don’t see him well, he can get quick outs. He doesn’t walk guys, he throws the ball over the plate and he will take the ball. He wants to be in the game and be a part of it.”