Of all those with a chance to make a difference in Syndergaard's absence, Gsellman could play one of the most critical roles. A National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate heading into the season, Gsellman struggled throughout April, fighting his mechanics and losing the feel for his breaking pitches. He demonstrated only marginal improvement in the Mets' 7-5 win over the Braves on Monday, earning his first victory despite allowing five runs in five innings.
If he is to help the Mets move on without Syndergaard, Gsellman knows he must be better.
"I never get frustrated," Gsellman said. "This is a game of failure. You've just got to pick yourself up and keep going."
Monday's early innings, at least, were some of Gsellman's best of the season. After allowing a leadoff homer to Ender Inciarte, Gsellman responded with eight consecutive outs, the first five of them on ground balls. But he allowed additional damage in the fourth and sixth innings, departing after giving up back-to-back doubles to open the sixth. Had the Braves not committed a baserunning blunder one inning earlier, their output against Gsellman might have been even greater.
As it was, Gsellman allowed five runs in five innings without whiffing a batter, generating just five swings and misses in 77 pitches. The right-hander's final pitch of the evening, a 94.5-mph fastball, was his swiftest of the night; Gsellman averaged 93.2 mph on his signature sinker, nearly a full tick below what he did last season.
"He's got a little more in there when he needs it," manager Terry Collins said. "But if the sinker's working, that's his bread and butter."
To that end, Gsellman is still generating grounders at an elite clip; entering Monday's play, he had allowed the fifth-lowest average launch angle among all Major League pitchers with at least 50 balls in play. But the Braves squared up several pitches in the bottom third of the strike zone, including both of Matt Kemp's doubles and Adonis Garcia's RBI single. Two of those three hits came on fastballs below 92 mph, the third on a breaking pitch.
All told, Gsellman's ERA stands at 6.75 through five starts, and if the Mets had more options, it's easy to imagine them sending the 23-year-old back to the Minors for more seasoning. But they don't. None of Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo are close to returning, meaning Gsellman -- successful or not -- is going to continue starting games every five days.
He's a rookie. He's raw. He is still, in his own words, "a work in progress." But the Mets, fairly or not, need Syndergaard's roommate to continue progressing as quickly as possible.