Mets notes: How lost season could influence decisions on Starling Marte and others


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NEW YORK — On Monday night, the New York Mets won their second straight game, a nondescript 7-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates fueled by three home runs and an excellent night from the bullpen, which threw six scoreless innings.

New York will take any win it can get these days, and it sure doesn’t mind nondescript ones after a few very descript losses over the weekend. For the Mets, the most interesting news Monday was on the way their current competitive context — at 54-65 they remain well outside the postseason picture — could influence their distribution of playing time down the stretch.

Let’s examine a few key questions.

Will Starling Marte return this season?

Marte is eligible to come off the injured list Wednesday, but he will not be ready to return. Though the Mets received good news about Marte’s groin — in that no additional procedures are required on the area — they have not set a timeline for the outfielder’s return.

Manager Buck Showalter conceded Monday that, at some point, the Mets might have to consider shutting Marte down for the year.

“We wouldn’t play him unless he was (fully healthy),” Showalter said. “(Shutting him down) might be considered at some point. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

How do the Mets decide what constitutes “fully healthy” these days? Is the calculus different with the team out of the race? Marte played last year’s Wild Card Series with a broken finger; obviously, the stakes are different the rest of this season.

“What’s more important: Do you want to go the whole offseason not knowing? Are you 100 percent sure? I understand the argument both ways,” Showalter said, applying it to Edwin Díaz as well. “He’s doing everything he can to get there and we’re taking the steps needed.”

“At the end of the day, I want to be back on the field,” Marte said through interpreter Alan Suriel. “I want to be there with my teammates and my friends and be able to do the best thing I can possibly do, which is go out there and contribute to the team.”

Marte also dealt with migraines in late July. He feels better about those now, as well.

“The biggest thing that was concerning is I got back-to-back migraines,” he said. “So we wanted to get that checked out. But right now we are just focused on the groin right now and we’re trying to get it stronger to be able to get back on the field.”

Marte did expect to require a rehab assignment before a big-league return.

The Mets have missed the version of Marte who propelled their offense last season.

“It’s been a guy we really haven’t had at his level,” Showalter said. “You can say that about some other people, too. It’s not for lack of effort.”

One interesting thing Showalter noted when asked about that calculation: Just how competitive the Mets lineup is might depend some on the opposition.

“Let’s be frank, some of the people from the integrity of the game and the schedule, I might look at a little different with who we’re playing,” he said. “I’m also trying to be fair to the pitchers. There’s a lot of sides of that.”

Might the Mets throttle back with Kodai Senga?

Not only has Senga been the Mets’ best starting pitcher this season, but he’s also been their most consistently available. The right-hander hasn’t missed a start all season, and he’s acclimated as of late to pitching on normal rest after the Mets had initially protected him from doing so.

Coming into the season, it was worth asking how many innings Senga could give the Mets. He’d occasionally dealt with injuries in Japan, and the Mets had built an option into his contract that would be triggered by Tommy John surgery.

With six weeks left in the season, Senga has thrown 122 2/3 innings — a pace for 168 1/3 over the full season. That would pretty much be in line with the 162 innings Senga threw last season, between Nippon Professional Baseball’s regular and postseasons. Senga has thrown more than 168 innings twice in his career: in 2016 (189 1/3) and 2019 (202 1/3). It’s important to note NPB regular seasons last 143 games, and the postseason consists of two or three rounds.

Senga is in line to get eight more starts this season, which would give him 30 on the season. Although he’s never reached that number before, he’s been in the ballpark several years. He started 29 games in 2019, 28 in 2016 and 27 in 2018, if you include NPB’s postseason.

Showalter said the Mets might give Senga an extra day before his next start this weekend in St. Louis. The Mets can play around with giving him that extra day of rest on a couple of occasions without changing the number of starts he makes.

“I feel good. I feel strong on the mound, and I think I can get through the season on a high note,” Senga said through interpreter Hiro Fujiwara. “On-field care, off-field care, I think I’m doing what I can to maintain my high performance on the field.”

How many games do the Mets want Francisco Álvarez catching?

The Mets have already throttled back on the rookie Álvarez’s playing time behind the plate. After he started the final eight games before the All-Star break, Álvarez hasn’t caught more than two in a row in the second half of the season. He’s essentially gone from starting three of every four games to two of every three.

Including his time at Triple-A Syracuse, Monday night marked Álvarez’s 79th start behind the plate this season — two more than he’d ever made before in a professional season. He’s on pace to start 107 games behind the dish this season, which he’d reach by continuing to start two of every three games the rest of the way.

(Photo: Dustin Satloff / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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