Mets News: Jacob Barnes, Joey Lucchesi opener combo coming too late in spring
By Tim Boyle
On Saturday, March 27, the New York Mets will start the game with Jacob Barnes on the mound and Joey Lucchesi pitching behind him. This is newsworthy because Barnes is a relief pitcher and Lucchesi is a starter.
That’s right, Mets fans. The orange and blue are taking one out of the Tampa Bay Rays’ playbook. In one of the final games of spring training, the Mets are turning to the opener.
From my vantage point far away from Florida and buried in the suburbs of the Northeast, it’s something I would have preferred to see the club experiment with a little earlier.
Mets can’t read too much into how this opener experiment goes
There are three results we can see from this opener experiment. If it works, the Mets are probably going to head into the regular season and possibly try it again. If it doesn’t work, they may nix it altogether.
Then there’s the neutral option when it works but needs improvement. Let’s say Barnes gets out of a first inning jam and Lucchesi is smooth for four innings then gets into trouble. Then what do the Mets do?
Regardless of the outcome, it’s hard to base a decision like this on one spring game. I’m not a fan of the opener or other fugazi (I have been listening to way too much WFAN this month) baseball maneuvers. I’d be a little more open to it if perhaps we got to see a few more games where Barnes starts and Lucchesi relieves him.
Bittersweetly, the regular season starts on Thursday. This is the last time Lucchesi will pitch before Opening Day which means we’ll have just a single example of whether or not this idea can work for him.
Why are the Mets doing this anyway?
There are a few reasons for the use of an opener in baseball. Primarily, there are three benefits a team can have.
Even if the two pitchers throw from the same side (which Barnes and Lucchesi do not), the team with the opener gets to put a fresh reliever up against the top of the opponent’s order. When the next pitcher enters the game for a few innings, he starts with the number four hitter or lower—unless the first inning was a disaster.
This pushes everything back and the third time around the order will be closer to inning number six or seven. Usually, it’s by the third viewing when hitters begin to figure out the pitcher.
A lot can go haywire with the use of an opener. Traditional starters not geared up for entering the game in the second inning might be out of their usual routine. I have to imagine it takes a little training.
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Win, lose, or draw with this opener experiment on Saturday, I do think the Mets will revisit it at some point in 2021. As much as I would prefer to see Lucchesi start and win games for the club the way we’re familiar with, I’ll give this other plan a chance.