Two weeks since the New York Mets played their first Spring Training game and the competition in the bullpen for the three open spots is beginning to gain some clarity. Not every decision should be based on spring statistics, however, it’s a strong tie-breaker.
A pair of pitchers vying for what I consider to be the optional reliever spot are Sam Coonrod and John Curtiss. Neither has given up a run this spring. Coonrod has 4 shutout innings with 6 strikeouts with Curtiss not far behind with 3 innings and 6 strikeouts, too.
If the team is ready to move on from both Rule 5 Draft pick Zach Greene and out of options reliever Stephen Nogosek, both can make the Opening Day roster. More likely based on Nogosek’s success late last season, he stays and the Mets choose between the pool of players that includes Coonrod and Curtiss.
Why the Mets should already lean toward John Curtiss over Sam Coonrod
It’s not just Coonrod that Curtiss is up against. Bryce Montes de Oca is the exciting younger arm very much in the fight. Control issues may result in him spending a bit more time in Triple-A. He’ll get his innings this year. I’m just not so sure the Mets will unleash him early on.
Coonrod joined the team this offseason as a waiver claim from the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite some early spring success, this is a guy with a lifetime 5.27 ERA. He missed a ton of time last year with an injury. In the 12.2 innings he did have, Philadelphia saw him allow 11 earned runs for a 7.82 ERA. His upside seems more limited than Curtiss who was pitching well before Tommy John Surgery.
Curtiss had a 1.80 ERA in 25 innings in 2020 and a 3.45 ERA in 44.1 innings back when he last pitched in 2021. It is a little misleading in that most recent year. A 12.46 ERA in his 4.1 innings after joining the Milwaukee Brewers erased the success he had with the Miami Marlins. Prior to the deal, Curtiss was 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 40 innings.
The Mets have liked Curtiss for a while. Willing to pay him for the 2022 season to rehab from his surgery, he’s the dessert you buy on a Tuesday and plan to eat on Saturday. It’s something I’ll occasionally do myself. This week, Cadbury Egg. I missed out last Easter.
Coonrod is filler for the bullpen. When the team needs a fresh arm, that’s when he comes in. All arms smell like they just came out of the laundry on Opening Day. With this in mind, Curtiss should be well ahead of Coonrod.
The only other pitcher who might get in on the action for this bullpen spot is Jeff Brigham. Acquired alongside Elieser Hernandez from the Marlins in a trade, he’s carrying a 4.50 ERA after two weeks in the spring. He’s a little more in-between Coonrod and Curtiss in terms of what to expect. Expectations for Coonrod should be low while Curtiss might be the kind of guy to stick around. Think of Brigham as a Yoan Lopez. For stretches, he might give the Mets some quality frames. His remaining minor league options will also mean he gets familiar with Syracuse.
The Mets have nearly three full weeks to figure out the bullpen situation. Coonrod is catching our attention. Curtiss leads.