As bullpens become more vital in baseball, the long-man in relief has gone from exclusively pitching in mop-up time to a guy teams can rely on to help save a game that could otherwise get out of hand. The New York Mets used Trevor Williams in the role perfectly last year. Now out of the picture, a Spring Training battle for the gig has already begun.
It does appear that two pitchers could be considered the favorites. In one corner, we have Joey Lucchesi who spent most of last year rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. The lefty of the pair, having him as a starting pitcher option doesn’t benefit the Mets quite as much.
Across from him is Elieser Hernandez. He was acquired alongside Jeff Brigham in a trade with the Miami Marlins. He’s a righty and someone who hasn’t had much success in the big leagues thus far. He has as much of a shot to win the job out of Spring Training. However, winning the Opening Day job is like coming away victorious at the First Battle of Bull Run. Both pitchers should get their shot.
The Mets are going to rely on more than one long-man this season
Lucchesi and Hernandez will both have a chance to get the long-man experience this year. If for no other reason than to have a fresh arm at the roster at some point this season, the pairing should prepare themselves for a trip to Syracuse.
This offseason, the Mets made a big deal about having optional relievers on their roster. Depending on the other pieces they carry with them, things could get tight very quickly. Lucchesi and Hernandez each have options and considering they are likely to pitch multiple frames at a time, swapping one for the other to have a fresher arm on a regular basis is something to have in mind for the 2023 season on a regular basis.
It’s Lucchesi who could alter the plan. Because the Mets are expected to carry only one other lefty in the bullpen, Brooks Raley, Lucchesi’s presence may have the team planning ahead for certain series. A lineup stacked with lefties might have Buck Showalter thinking twice about running Lucchesi into the ground in a more meaningless series finale the day prior. Using him as more of a traditional reliever makes sense at times. For Hernandez, not so much.
Either way, the Mets won’t have one Trevor Williams in their bullpen to bail them out on a regular basis. It’ll be some combination of Lucchesi and Hernandez plus maybe a few others who could emerge. If the team sticks with the plan to have Tylor Megill and David Peterson start on short notice even without someone landing on the IL, the pair of Mets long-men could join each other temporarily caught in between the majors and minors for a day. They’re the ultimate taxi squad guys.