PHOENIX -- The Mets' six-man rotation hardly even had a chance to rotate. The team tentatively plans to move one of its veterans to the bullpen next week, according to a team official, shrinking its six-man rotation back down to five.
"I've pretty much had my fill of this rotation stuff, I'll tell you that," manager Terry Collins said earlier in the day before the Mets' 7-2 loss. "I may go to a two-man. It's a pain in the butt."
Collins hinted strongly at the Mets' desire to shrink their rotation on Friday afternoon, saying he's "just tired of answering the questions, so we may go back to being traditional." When pressed on who is asking those questions, the manager quipped: "Everybody. My wife, I'm tired of her wanting to know who's pitching."
Though Dillon Gee appeared most at risk for a demotion on Friday afternoon, Jon Niese was also vulnerable due to four consecutive inadequate starts. Niese halted that momentum with a quality start Friday against the D-backs -- twice blowing one-run leads, but striking out eight for the first time in almost a year. The left-hander gave up three runs in six innings, showcasing steady low-90s fastball velocity.
"There was really no pressure," Niese said. "I treat every start the same no matter if I do good or bad. Things don't snowball that way. I just felt really good today."
Most likely, it was enough to earn him another start five games -- not six -- from now. It is clear that none of the club's starting pitchers were thrilled with the idea of a six-man set to begin with; when Collins first hinted at his plans last month on Pittsburgh, Matt Harvey almost immediately marched into his office to quiz him about the plan. The team later catered to Harvey, delaying their use of the six-man plan to ensure that he would not receive too much extra rest.
Since that time, despite plenty of chances, no Mets starter has offered verbal support of the rotation. So the Mets are changing their thinking on it, wanting their top-rated pitchers -- Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon -- to throw as often as possible. A traditional five-man rotation allows them to do that.
The downside is that the Mets will need to find a new way to limit the innings of Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard, and also of top prospect Steven Matz once he reaches the big leagues. A six-man rotation would have ensured limited work for all of them, but a five-man offers no such guarantees. So while the Mets may still use Gee or Niese as a spot starter out of the bullpen, they could also face the prospect of shutting down pitchers at the end of the season or in the playoffs.
Gee, the primary candidate to move to the bullpen, was slated to open this season there before Zack Wheeler's season-ending elbow surgery created a need in the rotation. Also dogged by trade rumors all offseason, Gee has gone 0-3 with a 4.46 ERA in six starts, spending a month on the disabled list due to a groin strain.