Mets manager Luis Rojas was outside wondering at what to do with Sunday’s game against the Pirates. Would it be another bullpen game? Would he even consider asking Jacob deGrom to start with a break? Or maybe it was slowly hoping that a fifth starter would magically show up for the first pitch – the stopgap solution the Mets were looking for in what feels like most of the season.
It’s not an easy task, do it over and over. Seek answers as bodies keep falling off the injured list, and the no-tender deadline is still two weeks away. Things were so delicate that Rojas was palpably relieved when Jerad Eickhoff, the longman designated for placement in June, was granted exemption.
But then, a vision on the hill: Carlos Carrasco-pitcher that social media users had thought would go on Jed Lowrie’s road and disappear forever from the injured ether’s list – and take the tire to Citi Field. Plus, he looked sharp in his simulation game, and he looked happy. He tried to field a ball, despite the hamstring injury that took months to heal. When he finished his six sticks, he hugged his teammates. He shook hands. His grin threatened to take over his face.
From there, the news got better. Rojas said they were so happy with Carrasco that the Mets thought he might just need to start rehabilitation once before joining the team. A return in late July, which seemed like an opportunity when Acting General Manager Zack Scott mentioned it last month, could potentially be mid-July.
“It looked really good,” Rojas emphasized. “It would be great. As you know, we need starters and we already have some guys who have come down.”
Rojas is absolutely right. The Mets have already lost Corey Oswalt, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and Robert Gsellman to the injured list. A healthy Carrasco is absolutely great, especially in a powerless division like the National League East, where the Mets take the top spot, both for their own performance and the overwhelming failures of their opponents.
And if Carrasco is something like the pitcher he was in Cleveland in 2020, the one with the 2.91 era, then it’s a definite game-changer. Rojas said that funky move made him a teasing opponent, so much so that James McCann said he was one of the pitchers he least liked to face when McCann played in the American League. That, plus a potential return of Noah Syndergaard, who was spotted jogging in the outfield on Saturday for the doubleheader and the Pirates, and owner Steve Cohen’s open wallet, makes for a tantalizing picture.
Scott has made no secret of the fact that the Mets will pursue aggressive launch assistance on the trading deadline, and it may even be easy for a player on a long-term contract, if the fit is good. If everything goes according to plan, the days of work on who will launch next may soon end.
The result could very well be a team that has the potential to walk away with the division. They came on Saturday and already had the third best ERA in baseball at 3:40 AM. The bats have increased recently (although that wasn’t at all apparent in the 6-2 losses of the humble Pirates in Game 1 of Saturday’s twin bill). And they’re waiting for JD Davis ’bat to come back soon. Jonathan Villar, who recently returned from a calf injury, did not miss a beat, hitting three homeruns in two games on Friday and Saturday.
That is, Mets fans have reason to be excited. And they have reason to think that this first half is just a taste of what could be a very dangerous ball club in the second half. After all, if Carrasco could come back from that seemingly endless crash – if he could prove it by Jed Lowrie 2.0 – what else could happen?