ATLANTA — With lefty Steven Matz and righthander Seth Lugo returning to the rotation, Collins said the Mets are going to go to a six-man rotation — if they both come through their first starts of the season without issue.
“If one of those guys comes out of one of their stars and there is an issue, we won’t do it,” Collins said.
So basically, the Mets have just decided to scrap their plans to send Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. Gsellman, who will start the afternoon game of Saturday’s doubleheader, has pitched to a 2.19 ERA over his last two starts.
Matz, who started the season on the disabled list with undetermined elbow discomfort, will make his season debut in the nightcap on Saturday.
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“I always got butterflies before I pitch, whether it’s minor leagues or here,” Matz said Friday. “It’s a good nervousness going into the game.”
Lugo, who is trying to avoid Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament on Opening Day, will start Sunday.
“It’s big if they pitch good,” Collins said of adding Matz and Lugo. “That’s the biggest key. It’s nice to have them back, I am just hoping they are ready to go.”
Both threw 90 pitches in their final minor league rehab starts so should be able to throw at least 100 pitches this weekend.
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Collins doesn’t want them to think they are coming back to rescue the rotation or the team.
“You have to let them get out there and get their feet wet,” Collins said. “Just let them see how they do. Again, not having them, I haven’t seen them in a while. They haven’t pitched in a big league game in a while. I think with their injuries and the way we looked at the other guys, the six-man is going to help out. They know they just got to do their part.”
Neil Walker was out of the Mets lineup for the second straight game with a left knee issue. The second baseman was being examined by doctors during Friday night’s game and the concern is growing about him.
“He’s got a little swelling in there. It has not diminished as of today,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He’ll get treatment on it and see where we are tomorrow.
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“The fact it is still bothering him after two days, yeah, there is some concern there.”
Walker complained of stiffness in his left knee after Tuesday night’s game.
With Yoenis Cespedes returning before Saturday’s game as well, Collins will have almost all of his projected Opening Day roster all together.
But he wasn’t exactly celebrating.
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Noah Syndergaard is still out until at least next month with a torn lat muscle and there is no timetable for David Wright who has not played in over a year as he tries to return from June 2016 neck surgery.
“We’ve still got two big pieces missing, they are fairly large. They are still big pieces,” Collins said. “We’ve been swinging bat the much better and having Ces back in the lineup will certainly help us.
“But we’re still missing two pieces.”
“He just said it had gotten stiff and the next day it swelled up,” Collins said. “We gave him a day off and it’s still swelled up.”
T.J. Rivera made his first start since May 20 Friday night, playing second base in the series opener against the Braves at SunTrust Park. Wilmer Flores was back in the lineup at third base with Jose Reyes again out of the lineup.
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