NEW YORK -- The average big league team used 10.4 starting pitchers last season, more than doubling its Opening Day rotation by the end of September. No team used fewer than eight starters, and no club leaned on its supplementary pitchers for fewer than 14 starts.
Even the Mets, one of the league's healthiest teams in terms of starting pitching last season, used 10 arms. They leaned on the sixth through 10th starters on their depth chart for 19 outings over the course of the summer, or 11.7 percent of their total games.
So it was a welcome sight for the Mets on Wednesday to watch Logan Verrett, the clear sixth starter on their preseason depth chart, deliver six scoreless innings in their 2-1 win over the Marlins.
"We knew going in that we were going to need more than just five guys," manager Terry Collins said.
For all the conversation surrounding the Mets' vaunted rotation this spring, reality dictates that Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon will not be the only ones taking the mound for the Mets. Already, deGrom is nursing a sore right lat, and he may need a trip to the disabled list, which is why Verrett filled in against the Marlins.
It is a concept that Collins discussed with Verrett, Sean Gilmartin and other bubble starting pitchers in February, knowing he would need them at various points this season. Remember that famous picture of the Mets' rotation this spring, with Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom and Matz in the center? It's easy to see Colon and Zack Wheeler on the edges. Perhaps it would have been appropriate to include Verrett, Gilmartin and Rafael Montero in the photograph as well.
"We talked about it in Spring Training at length, certainly to the players, that we won't have just five guys all year long," Collins said. "It's just not going to happen. It's just not realistic. So as I told some of the young pitchers in camp, 'Look, you guys have got to realize you're going to be a part of this. At some place, at some time, we're going to need you to start.'"
Outside of the injury that deGrom is nursing, the Mets, like all teams, hope they won't have to dip into their rotation depth too often this season. But they are confident with the options they have in-house. Chief among those is Wheeler, whose minor surgery to remove a suture from his pitching elbow shouldn't affect his plans to be back from Tommy John surgery around July 1. At that time, if everyone else is healthy and performing, Colon should go to the bullpen.
But the history of baseball suggests not everyone may be healthy and performing, making Wheeler's presence all the more important. Then there is Verrett, whose recent history has made him adept at flipping between the rotation and bullpen, and between the Majors and Minors.
"I learned it last year," Verrett said, laughing. "Last year, I kind of had to adapt a little bit, but that's what we do."
Other options for the Mets this summer include Gilmartin, a reliever last season whom the Mets recently sent to Triple-A Las Vegas to stretch out as a starter, and Montero, a former top prospect who is trying to remain in the organization's plan. Because the Mets traded away so much of their upper-Minors starting pitching talent last season, including Michael Fulmer (to the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes) and John Gant (to the Braves for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe), their options for spot starters are relatively limited.
All of which makes Verrett and company increasingly important over a long season, despite the presence of such high-end starting pitching.
"Those five guys are unbelievable pitchers, the four young guys and Bartolo is a Cy Young Award winner," Verrett said. "So you try not to get caught up in being them. It's easy to see their fastballs light up the radar gun, but that's not the type of pitcher I am. I've just got to remember who I am as a pitcher, and take that approach when I take the mound."