When Kodai Senga went down, it was natural to have Jose Quintana take the ball for the Mets on Opening Day. Not only was Quintana a veteran who pitched well when healthy last year, he was the only one of the remaining four initial pitchers in the rotation who played for the Mets in 2023. Then the question became: How would the Mets’ rotation unfold after Quintana?

The Mets started Luis Severino in the second game and they have Tylor Megill – who replaced Senga in the rotation – slated for the third game. Which makes me wonder why Sean Manaea got bypassed two times. My opinion is that Manaea is the best healthy pitcher on the staff, behind only Senga. Here are my projected ERAs for the Mets’ SP made before the regular season started:

2.79 – Senga
3.44 – Manaea
3.63 – Quintana
4.57 – Adrian Houser
4.67 – Megill
5.48 – Severino

There will be no hate from me towards anyone who scoffs at any of the above numbers. They were posted to show that this opinion about Manaea being the best option wasn’t something created yesterday. The Manaea projection was posted on Feb. 16.

Perhaps you can make the argument that the Mets didn’t want to start LHP back-to-back, although why you’d have that issue with lefties and not righties doesn’t necessarily make sense to me. But even if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you start Manaea in the third game? Or, you can believe that it doesn’t matter who starts the third game and who starts the fourth. Fair enough. But my belief is that the little things always matter and that if you ace the little things, you’ll have a better shot at getting the big things right, too.

SLOW FLORIDA STARTS CONTINUE IN QUEENS – We have all been beaten over the head that Spring Training stats don’t matter and that two games isn’t a big enough sample size to make any conclusions. And that’s very true. But at this point, it’s simply a matter of that’s all we have. So, instead of looking at these numbers to follow as some sort of prediction on what will happen next, look at them simply as what has happened, with no thoughts whatsoever that these are a harbinger of things to come.

In Florida, DJ Stewart batted .175, while Brandon Nimmo had a .615 OPS and Francisco Lindor had a .433 mark. In their first 23 PA in the regular season, this trio has combined for just two hits – both singles – and nine strikeouts. Stewart is 0-4 with 4 Ks, while Nimmo has a 44.4 K%. Stewart really needs to show something here quick or else he’ll be the one to go when J.D. Martinez is activated.

ENCOURAGING RESULTS EARLY FOR THE BULLPEN – Teams always rely on the bullpen early, as they wait for starters to get stretched out. SP for the Mets have delivered 9.2 IP while the pen has contributed 8.1 IP. But while the starters have allowed 8 ER in their time on the mound, the relievers have given up just 2 ER. The pen’s combined line is 8.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB and 9 Ks. After what we witnessed last year from the relievers, this is a sight for sore eyes.

PUTTING THE BAD IN BADER – When the Mets signed Harrison Bader in the offseason, many considered him to be the Mets’ full-time starter in CF. It’s a position that didn’t make sense to me, as Bader has really struggled versus RHP. In his career, he has a .665 OPS versus righties and in the last two years, a span of 657 PA, Bader has a .241/.284/.352 line, which is a 77 wRC+. So far in 2024, he’s 0-4 with 2 Ks versus RHP.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Bader has chosen to wear uniform #44, which hasn’t been exactly great for Mets hitters thru the years. The last three batters to wear that number for the team were: Rene Rivera, John Mayberry Jr., and John Buck. And in case you think this might be cherry picking the end point, the three before that were Jason Bay, Brady Clark and Lastings Milledge. Previously in the majors, Bader has worn uniform numbers 48, 22 and 4.

It’s clear he likes the number four. But Francisco Alvarez wears that number. And the Mets have retired both 14 and 24. Meanwhile, 34 is Senga’s number, too. There wasn’t a lot of choices for Bader if he was determined to wear a “4” on his jersey. It’s just that 44 has been a particularly bad number for hitters on the club in the Mets360 era.

BREWING UP A NASTY BATCH – Everyone knows that the Mets’ record versus the Braves and Dodgers hasn’t been very good here recently. But with two losses to the Brewers to open the season, the Mets are now 13-28 since the start of 2017 against Milwaukee. The two teams did not play against each other in the Covid season. In the six complete years, the Brewers have won the season series five times, including last year, as they went 6-1 against the Mets. Hopefully, Megill pitches a great game today and the Mets get their first win against Milwaukee in three tries. I’d feel better if Manaea was on the mound, instead.

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