JUPITER, Fla. — Robert Gsellman still isn’t swinging a bat, but the rest of his game is right where the Mets want it heading to the home stretch of spring training. In the battle for the fifth spot in the Mets rotation, it’s Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo, all of whom are showing enough to create an intriguing competition.
It has left team brass with a pleasant puzzle to solve between now and Opening Day. Gsellman added to his superb spring Saturday, when he allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk over five innings against the Cardinals and saw his ERA drop to 2. 25 in four Grapefruit League appearances.
“I am not ready yet, but I am almost there,” Gsellman said on a day the Mets won at Roger Dean Stadium. Most conspicuously, Gsellman still isn’t swinging the bat after a torn labrum in his left shoulder limited him to bunt attempts last season. But Gsellman, who underwent offseason surgery on the shoulder, said he is getting closer — he took swings in the batting cage earlier this week — and anticipates unveiling his swing before spring training concludes.
But the fifth spot in the rotation won’t be decided by pitchers hitting. Getting outs is what counts, and Gsellman has succeeded in that category this spring. Wheeler when he peaked at 97 mph on the radar gun against the Nationals and consistently kept his fastball in the range.
It caught the attention of Mets officials, who are trying to decide if the righty — coming off nearly a rehab from Tommy John surgery — would be better off beginning the season in extended spring training or the bullpen as the organization looks to keep him around innings in 2017. “It’s a great problem to have,” manager Terry Collins said. “We came into this camp knowing we have depth in the rotation.
We didn’t know where Zack was going to be, but we felt with the other four guys and Robert and Seth, we had some depth here. And they have stepped up and shown us we weren’t wrong. ” Lugo has spent the past 1 ½ weeks with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic but before departing pitched to a 3.
86 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances. The righty is a strong candidate for the Mets bullpen, according to sources, as the team prepares for Jeurys Familia to receive a suspension following his arrest last offseason on domestic violence charges. Gsellman was asked if Wheeler’s most recent performance served as any kind of motivator.
“I try to root them on and wish them success,” Gsellman said. “They are on my team, so I am not going to go out there and hope they do bad. I hope everything goes well for them and they can contribute to the team.
“I try not to think about it. You think about it, and the next thing you know, I’m giving up runs and thinking too much, so I just try to go out there and do my job and worry about myself. ” Gsellman went with a 2.
42 ERA in eight appearances last season to help fill the void in a rotation on the verge of collapse because of injuries. How does Collins handicap the race? “You have to be careful what you are seeing in March, but certainly Zack got our attention the other day,” Collins said. “I can’t wait to have him get back out there again, but when we get down near the end we will take a look and make what we think is the best call for the team and organization.