Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz has been experiencing some stiffness in his upper back and ribs since his last start against St. Louis on Wednesday, and the team is not taking any chances with their starting pitchers. After Sunday’s 14-2 win, the Mets announced that Matz will make his next scheduled start on Saturday, with Noah Syndergaard moving up to start Tuesday’s game on regular rest. “We don’t want to take the chance of him coming in Tuesday and not feeling great and being able to pitch.” “Then, we don’t know where we’re at and waste our bullpen,” Callaway said this evening after the game, referring to the possibility that Matz’s back could lock up in the middle of a start.
Matz threw a bullpen session this afternoon and reportedly felt fine afterwards, but the Mets are opting not to take the risk of starting him on Tuesday, figuring they can add some depth to the bullpen for one night, and test out his back in live action on a trial basis. Additionally, the move allows them to move Noah Syndergaard’s next two starts up to Tuesday against the Braves’ red-hot lineup, and Sunday against the dangerous Rockies, rather than wasting him against a bad Reds team. The move is not without its drawbacks, however, as it now forces both Matz and Jason Vargas to face a Rockies lineup who is fourth in OPS and first in home runs against left-handed pitching.
Matz has struggled with walks and home runs so far this season, but he also sports a shiny 10.8 K/9 rate. He has under-performed his xFIP and SIERA by over 1.2 runs, and his unsustainably low LOB% (left on base percentage) of 52.2 suggests a positive regression on the way. Saturday will provide a good litmus test against a tough Rockies’ lineup, and should also tell us whether or not his back will be a major factor in his success moving forward.