Mets’ Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are poised to return to the rotation

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The Mets’ rotation is working its way back up to full strength, and if all goes well this weekend, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz could find themselves contributing to the playoff race as soon as Sunday.

According to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, deGrom will get the ball for Sunday’s series finale against the Twins, but will be operating under a strict 75-pitch cap as the Mets try to suss out the extent of his range after missing 17 days with right forearm tightness. deGrom was shelved after a rough outing against the Marlins on September 1, when he took his eighth loss of the season with three runs and four walks over five innings. There’s a bigger picture to look at here, with deGrom’s 3.32 FIP and 3.04 ERA coming in 9th- and 11th-best among major league starters, but his effectiveness from this point through the end of the regular season will depend on his ability to both stay healthy and regain the command he exhibited earlier in the year.

Left-hander Steven Matz, who hit the disabled list in August with left shoulder tightness, is facing a tougher path to recovery. After throwing 20 pitches in an abbreviated bullpen session on Wednesday, Matz will get a full session on Saturday, which should give the Mets some indication of his ability to rejoin the team for a final postseason push. Prior to his injury, Matz responded to his first full season in the majors with 2.8 fWAR and a 3.40 ERA in 132 ⅓ innings.

It’s difficult to understate the pivotal timing of the the starters’ return. Despite the 18 pitchers on their 40-man roster, the Mets are still struggling to piece together a serviceable rotation beyond Noah Syndergaard and the occasionally brilliant, sometime-home run hitter Bartolo Colon. They’re one game up on the Cardinals in the wild card standings, who have gone 4-6 in their last ten games and have also made some last-minute adjustments to their rotation. While defending their postseason spot with a hodgepodge of contributors (among them, the recently-demoted Rafael Montero and recently-promoted rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman) isn’t out of the question, it’s difficult to imagine a prolonged stay in the playoffs without deGrom and Matz bolstering the rotation.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.