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With Jose Quintana out, Mets have interesting decision to make

Jose Quintana, one of the haul of free agents signed by the Mets in the offseason, has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib and will most likely be out to start the season.

Still three weeks away from Opening Day, it's impossible to know how many starts Quintana will miss. Could be one start. Maybe two. Or the veteran left-hander could be out until June. Who knows?

No baseball team wants to fool around with a pitcher dealing with a any sort of pull or fracture near their torso, which twists regularly in the course of the job. So, it's going to take as long it takes to heal. No rush.

Fortunately, the Mets have solid depth options to slide into the back of the starting rotation between Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi. A rotation which is headed by Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and Carlos Corrasco is still strong. Possible injuries to an older rotation is exactly why the Mets didn't move any of the extra starters in a deal for a hitter this winter.

But the question for the Mets isn't so much: Which of those pitchers slides into the fifth spot? No, the question becomes this: Will the Mets still consider a six-man rotation to give the veterans an extra day of rest from time to time?

The Mets start the season by playing seven straight days, which is rare but that's what happens when you open the season in two domed stadiums. So the Mets weren't going to be able to just skip the fifth slot as they would have normally done anyway. But that could have been a prime spot to think about going to the six-man turn if they had wanted to do it. An early blow for Scherzer and Verlander.

Yet there's a difference between using one of Megill/Peterson/Lucchesi to take a sixth game rather than using two of them in the back of the rotation, which the Mets would now have to do for however long Quintana is out when they'd slot in a sixth starter. So would they still do it? Or would they go for necessity rather than luxury to start the season, and revisit when Quintana returns?

If you ask me (and nobody did), if the Mets have any thoughts about going to six starters for a turn or two through the rotation, then this shouldn't change anything. Scherzer and Verlander are the ones who are going to take you to the promised land. If making sure they're healthy in October is the primary goal, then this shouldn't change anything. It's why you kept the pitching depth. Maybe the one adjustment is to make sure there's a long man in the bullpen to keep the pen fresh, say Tommy Hunter or Elieser Hernandez. But giving Megill, Peterson and Lucchesi extra starts for the benefit of two future Hall of Famers is a trade I'll take every time.

Let's see how it plays out.

Photo: Mark Rosenman

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