Coming off a collective injury laden 2017 season, there are more questions than answers in regards to the state of the pitching staff, especially the rotation.
Matt Harvey has underwent two major surgeries the last several seasons and is coming off back-to-back rough campaigns. Zack Wheeler has failed to live up to the potential he showed as a prospect and beyond him, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo are just as ambiguous.
However, a player I believe can step up and make an impact to help provide stability as a No. 3 starter is Steven Matz, but it has to happen this year. Both for him and the team.
The 26-year-old underwent successful surgery in August to reposition the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow. This is the same surgery deGrom had in 2016 and returned to toss over 200 innings this past year.
“He pretty much told me it was fairly simple and after a couple of months he was feeling really good,’’ Matz said to Steven Marcus of Newsday of a conversation he had with deGrom last month. “I’ve been throwing for a pretty good while now. I’ve been playing catch and working out just as I normally would in an offseason trying to get ready for this year. I anticipate being ready when spring training starts. I’m coming in healthy.’’
It wasn’t the smoothest of sailing for the southpaw in 2017 as the pitcher’s year was derailed by injury. When he was on the field he struggled mightily as well, registering a whopping 6.08 ERA.
He missed the first two months of the season with an elbow injury. Upon returning, he would reportedly skip bullpen sessions to ease the pain between starts.
In the same report linked above, his elbow would swell up to the size of a grapefruit at times after a start. This all came on the heels of him missing time last year with a shoulder impingement and surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow.
Had he qualified, his ERA would have been one of the worst in the majors along with Matt Harvey, who finished with a 6.70 ERA.
“I don’t think there’s a magic potion,” Matz said in October. “I think sometimes you just run into some tough chance there with guys getting hurt. I think a lot of the time when guys go through that, they learn about themselves and you learn about what you have to do to take care of your body and arm while pitching. Maybe this will make us better in the end.”
For Matz and the Mets organization, the hope is that correcting the irritation in his ulnar nerve was the big issue he was facing and that he can get back on track as deGrom did in 2017, and they could sure use it.
Matz is still young, is the lone southpaw the Mets have in regards to starters and has shown flashes of his potential. However, this year he needs to step up and prove he is still a viable arm that is part of New York’s future.
With Harvey in his walk year and the idea of Wheeler being moved to the bullpen kicked around, it would be great to see Matz fortify the rotation and give them a third dominant arm to complement deGrom and Syndergaard.