STREET. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One of the biggest pitchers in the game will be on the mound for the Mets on Opening Day.
MLB Network announced the Opening Day headlines for all 30 clubs on Friday, and the Mets revealed Max Scherzer as their pick to start March 30 in Miami against the Marlins. He will oppose Sandy Alcantara at LoanDepot Park.
“It’s awesome. It’s a great day to pitch,” Scherzer said after picking up the Mets’ 10-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. “The atmosphere is crazy everywhere you’re at. It’s going It’s going to be a great day and it’s a lot of fun to go out and receive the ball in that situation.”
This will be Scherzer’s first Opening Day start for the Mets, but the seventh in the veteran ace’s career. Scherzer made six Opening Day starts for the Washington Nationals, including four consecutive Opening Day starts between 2018 and 2021.
The Mets have long planned to put Scherzer there on Day 1, but declined to announce it to allow MLB Network to reveal all the matchups.
“I think it became official a few days ago when they tipped me off,” Scherzer said. “But when we went out in the spring, we had already planned it.”
This is exactly what the Mets envisioned when they signed the three-time Cy Young Award winner in December 2021. The Mets had hoped to use either Scherzer or Jacob deGrom in the 2022 opener, but deGrom failed to come out of camp healthy and Scherzer needed a few more days to deal with an oblique problem that later landed him on the disabled list.
Instead, Tylor Megill made the start and earned the win over the Washington Nationals. It was a solid outing from Megill, but he currently sits at the back of the rotation as he currently looks a lot different than he did at this point last year. It is much deeper and all but José Quintana are healthy.
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“I’ve been paying attention to how I speed up, the pitch count and seeing my body respond to that,” he said. “Here I am accelerated, I reached 100 pitches and I feel very good. The (oblique) is responding well, I don’t have any lingering effects. That’s the good news, I have a developed and strong side as well as my arm.
Scherzer hit that 100-pitch mark in his final Grapefruit League spring start on Friday against the Rays at Tropicana Field, opting to make the three-hour drive across the state instead of staying in Port St. Lucie. to throw in the back fields. Scherzer appeared to be on form at midseason against a Rays lineup that featured several regulars, limiting them to two earned runs on four hits, walking two and striking out 12.
Throwing 100 pitches in the last outing of the spring isn’t typical for most pitchers, but Scherzer isn’t exactly a typical pitcher. Reaching that benchmark is important to his progression and has been an effective way to prepare for the regular-season workload for years.
“I’ve always said that you want to experience 100 pitches before the end of the regular season because spring training games don’t have the same level of intensity as a regular season game,” Scherzer said. “That’s why you want to get to 100 today so you can be at 100 when the intensity ramps up.”
Justin Verlander is expected to start the home opener on April 6, also against the Marlins, but will start the third game of the season instead of the second.
With seven games to go before the club plays its first at Citi Field, the rotation will need to be set up to make sure Verlander is in line for the home opener. The Mets are also debating whether or not to start the season with a six-man rotation. These details will be discussed over the weekend when the Mets hold a staff meeting to finalize the 26-man roster and set up the starting rotation for the early part of the season.
“We could have done either one, but we set Justin up to pitch Game 1 at home, so they’ll both be in a good place for us,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It doesn’t stop anyone from making X number of starts for us in the year. We’d also like to split those guys up.”