Two Met starting pitchers, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, are due to come off the DL this upcoming weekend. Manager Terry Collins has said both will be inserted into the starting rotation, which will mean changes in roles for other pitchers on the staff.
Some reports indicate that Robert Gsellman could be shifted to a relief role, possibly as closer until Jeurys Familia returns, if he does this year. The current closer Addison Reed could then revert to his more familiar eighth inning setup role.
This realignment could well work for the Mets, but there is another approach that might work even better. Specifically, we could leave Gsellman in his starter role and shift Zack Wheeler into the closer spot.
Wheeler, coming off two lost seasons due to surgery, is under an innings limit of around 125 innings this season. As of early June he has already pitched 55 innings, so at this pace he will be at his innings limit some time in August, if he remains as a starter. However if Wheeler is used in one or occasionally two inning save situations, he will accumulate less innings and thus be available for much more of the season. If Familia does return later this season, then Wheeler could be put back in the starting rotation when inevitably another starter is injured or ineffective.
Wheeler has an ERA of 3.72 so far this year, while Gsellman has a high 5.53 ERA. Of late Gsellman has pitched much better, in his last two starts he has logged a 2.19 ERA. It might be wise to let the young pitcher continue as a starter since he seems to be getting comfortable there.
Most managers like a late inning relief pitcher who can throw the high hard one, and Wheeler has been averaging 94.6 mph on his four-seam fastball this season, according to Fangraphs. Figuring starting pitchers have to pace themselves to a certain extent, in a one or two inning role out of the bullpen Wheeler could likely get even more velocity than he has shown in the starting role.
Wheeler has little experience in pitching relief. One problem might be adjustment to the shorter warm-up time relievers receive. However as a closer he would generally come into an inning clean as opposed to coming in with runners on base from a previous pitcher. As a closer he would likely be able to get plenty of warm-up time knowing he was going to come in in the ninth inning.
The bottom line is that the return of Lugo and Matz will necessitate changes in the pitching alignment. The switch of Wheeler to the closer role, at least temporarily, could have the benefit of not only bolstering the late inning relief corps but would also make Wheeler available for more of the season because of the club-imposed inning limit hanging over him.