Mets need to establish a reliable sixth back up starter for rotation depth
By Staff Writer
The New York Mets have shown that their starting pitching can be counted on to give them quality starts in 2021 and keep them in ball games late, despite showing signs of an offense that has been struggling. Granted it’s still early in the year, but we have already seen pitchers like Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker put together many quality starts in a row. Second year south paw David Peterson has been more hit or miss this season but still has shown flashes of being able to look dominant at times. These players seem established.
With the newly acquired Carlos Carrasco and veteran flame thrower Noah Syndergaard both on their way back from injuries, it looks as if the starting five rotation will be set with Taijuan Walker as the new sixth man option if everyone remains fully healthy.
But as we have seen already and in the years past, any chance of the Mets having all their starting five rotation pitchers healthy for long periods of time together is very slim. No doubt, inevitably, one or more of the three healthy starters we have seen pitch so far will also be a victim to the IL for a long stretch of time. They will need more than just Walker to come in and perform well as a future back up.
If this is the case, who’s next in line to carry the torch and keep the team competitive on the mound?
So far the Mets have turned to the former Padre lefty Joey Luchessi as possible solution to both anchor that 5th spot in the rotation temporarily and serve as a reliable sixth starter in the future. Luchessi looked good in Spring Training and showed an ability to go right after hitters with an assortment of interesting looking off speed pitches. But his Spring Training effectiveness hasn’t translated to the regular season so far. In his three regular season starts, he hasn’t pitched more than three innings in any of the appearances and currently has an ERA over 10.00. Perhaps a middle relief role seems more suitable for the native of Newark California at this point.
Mets would be wise to call up some of their off season pitching acquisitions to see if they can fill the void as a back up sixth starting pitcher.
Two interesting possibilities I’d like the Mets to call up and give opportunities to are the recent offseason acquisitions of Jordan Yamamoto and former Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff. Yamamoto was a former Florida Marlins prospect who came up with that organization back in 2019. He looked very impressive in his first six starts as a rookie but tailed off towards the end of that season. In the shortened 2020 season he looked completely ineffective, getting hammered in almost every appearance he made for the Marlins.
The Hawaiian native features an assortment of off speed pitches that he can throw with serious bite and movement on. This includes a slider, cutter, curveball, splitter and a change up. His fastball only tops out in the low 90’s. The problem Yamamoto has run into recently is his lack of control, as seen by the fact the averages about 4.3 walks per nine innings in his young career thus far. And when his command is off, Jordan compounds the problem by throwing his stuff more over the heart of the plate in an attempt to get his strikes up. This is where he can get into some serious trouble. On the bright side, if the Mets pitching staff can work with him and make a few minor adjustments, he has the ability to be as good as any number three starter in the game. It doesn’t hurt that he is only 25 years old too, so the time for him to correct and improve is still there.
Jerad Eickhoff is a former Phillies starter who is entering his sixth Major League season. His career with Philadelphia was injury riddled with shoulder, back and nerve ending problems. He sat out all of 2020 to rest and works with a massage therapist regularly to iron out his shoulder and nerve tingling sensation issues. Eickhoff’s best and really only complete season of pitching in the big leagues was all the way back in 2016, where he pitched close to 200 innings for the Phillies and had a nice strikeout to walk ratio of 4 to 1.
Similar to Jordan Yamamoto, Eickhoff has shown the ability to throw his pitches with a great deal of spin and movement on them. Especially that 12 to 6 curve ball he features. When it is on it can be near unhittable. It’s a very similar pitch to former Brewers and Mets starter Jeff D’Amico. As long as his pitches can remain live and with movement, Eickhoff should be able to keep opponent’s fly balls in the ball park. If fully healthy, he is an intriguing player I would like to see the Mets give a few starts to and see what he can accomplish.
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In a long 162 game marathon of a season, being able to find guys that you can count on to step up and give you those quality performances on the hill when your starters are down is of paramount importance. The Mets might have that in the offseason acquisitions of Jordan Yamamoto and Jerad Eickhoff. Let’s hope the Mets management gives them the opportunity and allows us to see if they can be the solutions we need them to be.