By Ed Coleman
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PORT ST. LUCIE (WFAN) — The Mets’ starting rotation will kick it into gear Monday when Noah Syndergaard faces off against Justin Verlander and the world champion Houston Astros in West Palm Beach. Syndergaard will be followed Tuesday through Thursday by Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Jason Vargas.
On Sunday, Robert Gsellman made his initial start and looked very sharp with two innings of one-hit, two-strikeout ball.
Manager Mickey Callaway came away impressed.
“He looked really good,” Callaway said. “I really liked the way he used his fastball running in on the righties’ hands. That’s such a big weapon, especially against the really good hitters in the league. Really impressive.”
Callaway has a simple game plan for all his pitchers, and it starts with Strike 1.
“Every pitcher that goes out there, I want them to throw the ball over the plate and get ahead,” he said. “That’s the main thing. If you get ahead, you’re going to get outs. These guys are up here because they have really good stuff and talent. If they get ahead, they’re going to be successful, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
Gsellman had a strong finish to 2017 but struggled mightily with command and control early on. Callaway said that can often happen with young pitchers.
“Most pitchers battle that whole spinoff, getting more side to side, and when he does that, the ball’s going to run a little bit more than sink,” he said. “He’s done a really good job of staying within his delivery, keeping that front side in there and getting the sink that he wants. We saw it today. It’s just kind of boring in on those guys, and then he throws an excellent fastball down and away to a righty that comes back on the outside corner (and) they give up on it.”
The Mets have emphasized two particular things in camp thus far: pitchers holding runners on base and their own base running. And Callaway loves the attention to detail that players are exhibiting.
“I feel like our base running has been excellent,” he said. “I mean, Gsellman was 1.25 seconds to home today, controlling the runner, throwing over. Those two messages seem like simple things, but they’re going to improve our team vastly. We don’t have the greatest team speed in the world, so if we run the bases the right way, we can make up a lot of ground on guys. What they’ve done in those two facets of the game so far have been amazing. So hard work is paying off.”
Following Syndergaard on Monday will be Hansel Robles, Jacob Rhame, Jamie Callahan, Tyler Bashlor, Drew Smith and Corey Taylor. After Verlander, the Astros will use Will Harris, Tony Sipp and Hector Rondon.
First pitch is at 1:05 p.m.