ATLANTA — Managed rotation Tuesday for the Mets after losing Taijuan Walker to back spasm in a 5-0 loss to the Braves at Trust Park. The problem came less than 24 hours after fellow rotation member Carlos Carrasco checked his left hamstring and was sidelined for three to four weeks.
“It’s really bad, and the timing couldn’t be worse for something like this,” Walker said.
In the short, relievers RJ Alvarez and Stephen Nogosek allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings behind him, an injury to Walker, including homers to Robbie Grossman and Matt Olsen. The loss snapped New York’s division 3 1/2 wins.
Longer term, Walker is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday, which should shed more light on the injury. (It’s uncertain whether he’ll make the next start.) Even if Walker’s case doesn’t keep him out for long, the Mets’ rotting rotation has put the depth chart under a microscope at a critical time of the season. New York plans to dip into those reserves this weekend, with sixth and seventh starters David Peterson and Trevor Williams scheduled to start both halves of a doubleheader in Philadelphia. What if another injury occurs?
Here’s how the Mets’ rotation depth looks with seven weeks left in the regular season.
(Note: These rankings are not official, but the following is a rough estimate of where the patchers stand in the organizational hierarchy.)
No. 6 Starter: LHP David Peterson Key Stats: 14 starts, four in relief, 3.30 ERA
So far, the Mets have resisted the temptation to move Peterson into a full-time relief role, even though Joely Rodriguez is the lone left-hander in the Reupen. Knowing they would need at least a sixth starter on Saturday, the Mets let Peterson stretch out in the minors.
Now, with Carrasco out, the obvious move is to keep Peterson in the rotation for the foreseeable future. That’s not a bad thing; As a starter, Peterson was good with a 5-2 record and 3.17 ERA in 14 starts. He is a key member of the club’s rotation depth for a reason.
No. 7 starter: RHP Trevor WilliamsKey stats: Eight starts, 14 relief appearances, 20 consecutive scoreless innings, 3.02 ERA
It’s hard to put into words Williams’ value to this staff. He was a glue guy, delivering everything from a two-out relief appearance in April to a seven-inning scoreless start last month. If the Mets want Williams to start, he will, and he’ll probably be pretty good at it.
“Thank you for that [manager] Buck [Showalter] She trusted me with this role,” Williams said. “I’m happy to be able to contribute every now and then, whether that’s starting or relieving or doing random checks.”
No. 8 starter: RHP Tylor MegillKey stats: Nine starts, 41 1/3 innings, 47 strikeouts, 5.01 ERA
Megill, the Mets’ Opening Day starter, has been sidelined since June 17 with a strained right shoulder. He threw his first bullpen session Sunday and could move on to rehab games at the end of the month, but the Mets’ plan is to shift Megill into a relief role when he returns. That could change, of course, but even if it does, McGill will need time to fully develop as a starter. He is not a short-term option in the rotation.
No. 9 Starter: LHP Joey LuchesiKey Stats: Uncapped since June 18, 2021.
Mets officials have yet to express their interest in Lucchesi when he returns from Tommy John surgery, which could happen in September. Given the Mets’ lack of left-handed depth, Lucchesi at least has a chance to shift to a relief role. But if that’s where the need is, he can stretch back as a starting pool. Lucchesi played in both roles last year, putting up a 1.19 ERA over his final five starts before tearing his elbow ligament.
Lucchesi hasn’t started his rehab yet, but he’s already thrown several live BP sessions, which is typically the last step before minor league games.
No. 10 starter: RHP Jose ButtoKey stat: 108 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings at Double-A Binghamton
The Mets’ rotation at Triple-A Syracuse has been a revolving door, with 17 different pitchers starting games for the club. The most intriguing name in the current rotation is Bhutto, the team’s 12th-ranked prospect who was promoted there last week. Known for his changeup, Bhutto recently started throwing sliders to expand his repertoire. The four-pitch mix makes it an intriguing option for the Mets — maybe not this season, but at some point in the mid-term future.
“Every start, every routine in the bullpen, I try to get better, better, better,” Bhutto said last week. “I feel great now that I have a new voice.”