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Mets Notebook: Buck Showalter navigating through his shorthanded bullpen during Drew Smith ban

HOUSTON — Drew Smith is now more than halfway through his 10-game sticky substance suspension and the Mets are surviving. It hasn’t been easy playing with one fewer bullpen arm, but some of the starting pitchers are finally starting to go deep into games on a somewhat consistent basis. However, right-handers Tylor Megill and Carlos Carrasco are still struggling to go deep.

The Mets managed to avoid emptying their bullpen Sunday when Carrasco blew up against the St. Louis Cardinals. Right-hander John Curtiss ate nearly three innings and the Mets sent him to Triple-A the next day and brought up Grant Hartwig to have a fresh arm. An eight-inning start by Max Scherzer and a seven-inning start by Justin Verlander in the first two games of the Houston series helped as well.

Megill went only 2 1/3 innings Wednesday in the Mets’ 10-8 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Dominic Leone, who had been sharp as of late, was able to go 1 1/ 3 and Adam Ottavino went two. Rookies Hartwig and Josh Walker also pitched scoreless innings, with Hartwig going 1 1/3. Walker might have been able to go longer but he was hit on the quad with a comeback and the Mets removed him for precautionary reasons.

The good news is that the team is off Thursday, so they may be able to avoid making another roster move in the bullpen. But they may need to make one for Megill.

Megill was sent to the bullpen as a just-in-case arm for the second game of the Subway Series last week. Since he wasn’t used, he was able to make his starts Friday and Wednesday. But a short outing in Houston could mean the Mets are going to use him as an emergency arm in the bullpen again this weekend and skip his next start.

Megill is 6-4 with a 5.17 ERA. He’s had some good starts this season and been the beneficiary of bad luck from the defense behind him at times, but much like David Peterson, he has regressed this season.

“It could be a lot of things,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “The things that I see are, maybe a little bit of focusing on his mechanics. That’s typically what you do, right? You struggle to find the zone, it’s something mechanical. I don’t think that’s necessarily true with him, I think he just needs to get back to who he was just throwing the baseball. That downhill, ability to throw right up in the zone and come right after you guy. He’s not really that guy, at least right now, but he can certainly get back to it.”

Megill is struggling to make those adjustments, finding it difficult to do so during the season without any sort of break. Poor fastball command has led to bad counts, bad pitch sequencing and an inability to put away hitters.

“More so fastball command,” Megill said. “I think all my off-speed stuff is playing really well right now. It’s just more so getting ahead with the heater. Making mechanical changes during the season, I just need reps. It’s harder to get reps in between starts because I’m trying to recover my arm and not trying to throw as much. I just need to go and trust it and fill up the zone.”

The only way to get Megill some of those reps is to bench him, which the Mets can’t really do without another starter, or send him back to Triple-A. Left-hander Joey Lucchesi has pitched well for Syracuse lately and the Mets can bring him up to skip Megill before left-hander Jose Quintana is able to come off the injured list.

Lucchesi is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA with Syracuse this season. He was recently named the International League pitcher of the week (June 12-18). In his last start against Tuesday in Buffalo, he threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings, retiring 20 of the 22 batters he faced.

Smith, meanwhile, is at the club’s complex in St. Lucie. He isn’t allowed to pitch at any level higher than the Florida Complex League (rookie). The right-hander is eligible to return Monday when the Mets begin a seven-game homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers.

“It’s very punitive,” Showalter said of the 10-game suspension that comes automatically with an ejection for a foreign substance or excessive rosin use. “It’s one of the most punitive punishments in our sport.”

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Source: Berkshire mont

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