Do you smell it in the air? It’s baseball season, folks. The Super Bowl is in the rearview mirror, it’s 50 degrees in the tri-state area on Tuesday, and both Mets and Yankees players have been spotted doing baseball activities at their respective spring training facilities.
It’s a beautiful sight. Mets pitchers and catchers aren’t supposed to officially report until Wednesday. However, plenty of dudes are already in Port St. Lucie getting their work in. Two notable hurlers who arrived at the facility on Tuesday were Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander:
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
GOOD MORNING. pic.twitter.com/jxfQM3LMHg
— SNY (@SNYtv) February 14, 2023
With Jacob deGrom playing for the Texas Rangers, it’ll be Scherzer and Verlander serving as co-aces in 2023 for the Mets’ rotation. Where exactly will they be pitching in the rotation, though? Manager Buck Showalter participated in his first media availability of the spring and touched on several topics. He discussed the Opening Week rotation a smidge. But in his typical fashion, he’s not showing all his cards:
Buck Showalter hinted he will split up Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in the rotation to begin the season so one can pitch the home opener. Showalter wasn’t tipping his hand who will pitch the opener in Miami.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) February 14, 2023
There goes Buck, always trying to think one step ahead of everyone else. We know New York wants Scherzer and Verlander to be the duo that drives the bus when it comes to rotation production. Projections have supported that, and the hope is they generally stay healthy this year to make that a reality.
Here’s what the first three series of the regular season look like for New York:
- March 30th, @ Miami Marlins
- March 31st, @ Miami
- April 1st, @ Miami
- April 2nd, @ Miami
- April 3rd, @ Milwaukee Brewers
- April 4th, @ Milwaukee
- April 5th, @ Milwaukee
- April 6th, vs. Miami
- April 8th, vs. Miami
- April 9th, vs. Miami
As long as Mother Nature cooperates and there are no games postponed, the Mets’ home opener will be their seventh game of the season. That’ll obviously be the second turn through the rotation, and the pitcher taking up residence in the third spot will be tabbed with Opening Day at Citi Field.
To take a crack at what Buck is potentially thinking for the order of his rotation, let’s start from the back. Carlos Carrasco had a great bounce-back campaign in 2022 after a rough first year in Queens. The soon-to-be 36-year-old won 15 games while posting a 3.97 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 152 innings pitched. It feels like he’s ticketed for the fifth spot, which would be perfect for him.
Jose Quintana could be a huge bargain for the Mets after signing a two-year deal this offseason. Given the top half of what New York’s rotation could look like, the veteran southpaw and resident innings-eater should land as the fourth starter. Having two hurlers that combined for 6.4 fWAR in 2022 take up the last two spots in the rotation is awesome.
That leaves us with Scherzer, Verlander, and Kodai Senga. Showalter already hinted at splitting up his two co-aces, meaning Senga should be pitching on the second day of the season. This is good for multiple reasons.
His first start comes on the road, but so will his second (it’d be the series finale in Milwaukee). Senga will get two big-league appearances under his belt before seeing what baseball is like in Queens. And, he’ll just have to worry about taking in the sights and sounds of Citi Field during the first home series against Miami. That’ll give him a chance to get acclimated a bit before facing the San Diego Padres.
Unsurprisingly, Scherzer and Verlander would both be reserved for Opening Day situations. If I had to venture a guess, I wouldn’t be shocked if Verlander toed the slab on Opening Day. He’s the reigning American League Cy Young winner, and it’d also allow him to get his first two starts with a new club on the road before heading home (he probably doesn’t need that, but it can’t hurt).
This would also line Scherzer up for April 6th at Citi Field. Between him and JV, he has the tenure advantage with the Amazins. Buck may also want to get his righty back in front of the home crowd as soon as possible. This way, Scherzer has a shot to wipe away the bad taste of how his season ended in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series last October.
So, here’s my way-too-early-while-jumping-to-conclusions Opening Week rotation configuration for the Mets:
1. Justin Verlander
2. Kodai Senga
3. Max Scherzer
4. Jose Quintana
5. Carlos Carrasco
We’ll see how close (or, how far off) I am once we finally get to the completion of spring training next month.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.