Seth Lugo has to feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of the Mets pitching staff.
Whenever he has been the starter, he has pitched well. He beat the Yankees in a 2018 Subway Series game, which is always an accomplishment for a Mets pitcher.
But even though Lugo has been a reliable arm, Mets management first preferred to use him as a long reliever in case a starter got removed early in a game. He always found a way to keep the Mets in the game when it looked like a lost cause and on a few occasions the Amazin’s even came back to win.
One of the risks of early spring baseball in New York is the weather is frequently cold and raining. It’s frustrating for a manager to waste the services of a top starting pitcher if the game is going to be rained out before going the regulation five innings. I remember a dreary April day last season in which Cy Young pitcher Jacob deGrom was scheduled to be on the mound. I asked Lugo if he would be willing to start in place of deGrom and he immediately replied, “While it’s not ideal, I never turn down a chance to start.” During his pregame press conference Mets manager Mickey Callaway did not rule out asking Lugo to start at the last minute, but he ultimately stuck with deGrom.
As everyone knows, the Mets bullpen was a FEMA disaster area in 2019 thanks to the implosions of both newly acquired closer Edwin Diaz and the once-reliable Jeurys Familia. The only dependable option for Callaway to protect any kind of late-inning Mets lead was — you guessed it — Lugo.
I spoke with Lugo in late September and told him that he was a victim of his own success. “My agent tells me the exact same thing!” he replied with a laugh.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has tried to shore up the bullpen by signing longtime Yankees bullpen mainstay Dellin Betances as well as veteran Brad Brach, who pitched decently for the Mets after he signed with them in August following his release from the Chicago Cubs. There is also the realistic expectation that Diaz and Familia won’t be as awful in 2020, and Justin Wilson, who missed a lot of games because of injury, should be in better health this year.
The Betances and Brach transactions should have been an indication that the Mets would grant Lugo’s wish to return to being a starter. Apparently that’s not the case as Van Wagenen signed both Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello as free agents to fill out the starting rotation. Both are coming off down years and could well be on the downside of their careers.
The Mets should give Seth Lugo a shot at being a starter in 2020.