Mets manager Carlos Mendoza mulling six-man pitching rotation as Kodai Senga’s return nears

May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  New York Mets manager Carlos Mendoza (64) comes out to the mound to talk with pitcher Adam Ottavino (0), catcher Tomas Nido (3), first base Pete Alonso (20), shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) and third base Brett Baty (22) against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning  at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets are anticipating that ace Kodai Senga will return in June, creating a tough rotation decision for manager Carlos Mendoza who has arrived even earlier than expected.

The Mets need to decide if they’ll run a six-man pitching rotation once the Japanese All-Star comes back from a shoulder ailment sustained this spring. Mendoza will be on the hot seat this week, as he could open up an existing crowded rotation and set a precedent for next month.

Mets have several starting pitchers to consider for Wednesday’s game against the Phillies

May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  New York Mets manager Carlos Mendoza (64) comes to the mound to take out pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
May 4, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets manager Carlos Mendoza (64) comes to the mound to take out pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Per Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post, Mendoza had this to say about the hard decision he’s facing on Wednesday, with Adrian Houser healthy, Tylor Megill rehabbing from injury, Joey Lucchesi on deck in Triple-A and two of his top starters who will have only had four-days rest when the Mets take on the Philadelphia Phillies by then:

“We’ll see where we’re at,” Mendoza said. “Whether we want to go six-man this next round. There’s a lot of factors that we need to consider — off days, bullpen and things like that.”

Mets could see a change to the five-man lineup they’ve deployed much of the season

The Mets have stuck to a five-man rotation for the vast majority of the 2024 MLB season so far. Christian Scott, who was just recently called up to replace the struggling Houser in the rotation, is the only other pitcher outside of their top five that has seen more than one start this year.

As Sanchez laid out, the Mets will wrap up their three-game set against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday with Luis Severino on the mound. After that, Sean Manaea and Jose Butto will open up their four-game series against the Phillies on Monday and Tuesday respectively, before Mendoza has to decide if he’ll shorten one of his starters’ rest time or shake up the apple cart.

The Mets’ next starter will be a toss-up. Houser has reeled with an inflated 7.63 ERA. Megill is working his way back from a shoulder strain and is dominating at Syracuse in Triple-A. The 28-year-old recently threw four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and 11 whiffs, topping out at 97 mph in Syracuse’s 18-3 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on May 7.

Mendoza was non-committal about how he’ll deploy Houser in the coming days while Megill may still need more time to return to full strength.

Who is most likely to start on Wednesday & how will that impact the Mets once Kodai Senga returns?

Sep 27, 2023; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga (34) drops a rosin bag during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.  Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2023; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga (34) drops a rosin bag during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As it stands, the two likeliest options would be to start Quintana once more with four days of rest time or call up Lucchesi from Triple-A Syracuse. Quintana owns a 5.44 ERA in a team-leading 41.1 innings pitched and has struggled to strike out hitters with just over three K’s per game. Lucchesi has retired 28 hitters with a 2.58 ERA in seven healthy starts in the minors.

If Quintana shows he can handle a condensed window of rest, the Mets could continue with that approach for all of their featured starters in spurts once Senga returns. A potential successful showing from Lucchesi could prove him as a viable flex option in the event of any future injuries that may plague the rotation.

Upon Senga’s re-insertion into the lineup, he, along with current lead-man Severino, Quintana, and Manaea appear to be the four surefire starters, while Scott, who is impressing with a 2.84 ERA, 1.105 WHIP, and 14 strikeouts in two starts, is a leading contender along with Megill for the fifth spot. Both would create a six-man battle that Mendoza will have to work out as the year progresses.

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