Mets hoping Robert Gsellman can become bullpen force


Part 11 in a series about the New York Mets

The Mets’ bullpen will enter the season with more questions than the team would like, from Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia looking for bounce-back seasons to figuring out whether Robert Gsellman can develop from an innings-eating reliever to someone who can be relied upon in high-leverage situations.

The right-hander arrived to the Mets with a flourish, making his MLB debut on Aug. 23, 2016, when Jon Niese left a game in St. Louis with knee soreness.

Gsellman, called up the previous day when Steven Matz was sidelined by a tight left shoulder, came out of the bullpen for the first time since rookie ball and tossed 3 ²/₃ scoreless innings in a win.

He went on to make an immediate impact. His next seven appearances were all starts and he allowed more than two runs just twice and finished with a 2.42 ERA in 44 ²/₃ innings.

But he has been unable to duplicate that success and even now, there are questions about just where he fits onto the staff.

“With his stuff, you’d expect him to be more effective,’’ one NL scout said. “But it just hasn’t translated into consistent results and at some point, you have to wonder if it ever will. I wouldn’t give up on him yet, though.’’

Gsellman seemed slated for an important role in the bullpen in 2020 until Noah Syndergaard went down with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until next season.

Earlier in the offseason — before Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha were signed as free agents — general manager Brodie Van Wagenen revisited the idea of inserting Gsellman or Seth Lugo into the rotation. As it stands now, the Mets’ starting five consists of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Matz, as well as Porcello and Wacha.

But it’s clear that if the 2020 season ever gets underway, the Mets will need more than five starters and Van Wagenen said he would prefer not to have Gsellman or Lugo bouncing back and forth between starting and relieving.

Even with those two, the bullpen could be shaky. They’re hoping for better performances from Diaz and Familia, as well as newly signed Dellin Betances. Justin Wilson and Brad Brach pitched well last year and will be back.

Robert Gsellman
Robert GsellmanAnthony J. Causi

Gsellman moved to the bullpen in 2018 and his results since the shift have been underwhelming.

Last season, Gsellman went through a 20-game stretch from May 23-July 14 when he allowed 20 earned runs in 20 innings and his ERA soared from 2.48 to 5.14.

A torn lat ended his season in August last year, though he was healthy enough by late September that had the Mets stayed in playoff contention and needed Gsellman to pitch, he could have. His absence was felt down the stretch in an already thin bullpen.

This spring, Gsellman said he was “healthy and feeling great,’’ before MLB was shut down indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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He was also open to the idea of starting again.

“Who wouldn’t want to start?” Gsellman said in February. “Going out there five, six, seven innings, that is fun. Maybe I will build up in spring.”

That didn’t happen during the abbreviated Grapefruit League season, as Gsellman pitched six innings in four appearances.

New pitching coach Jeremy Hefner could have an impact on Gsellman. One odd part of Gsellman’s 2019 season was his dreadful results at Citi Field, where he had an 8.51 ERA and 1.767 WHIP in 24 ¹/₃ innings, compared to a 2.29 ERA and WHIP of 1.119 on the road.

Whatever the reasons for his overall struggles the past two years, Gsellman can ill afford another shaky season.

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