Mets look to Tylor Megill for opener with deGrom, Scherzer out

WASHINGTON — Tylor Megill isn’t the first accidental opening day starter in Mets history, but perhaps the most unlikely.

The right-hander began rotational deep spring training after a strong rookie year, but through a confluence of events, he’ll be the starting pitcher when the Mets begin their season Thursday against the Nationals, weather permitting.

“It just happened to fall in the right slot where my throws line up on opening day,” Megill said Wednesday after a team practice at Nationals Park – during which manager Buck Showalter officially named the starter for the first game. “They just turned out they chose me.”

The start belonged to Jacob deGrom until the two-time Cy Young Award winner reported shoulder discomfort that was diagnosed as a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade that will keep him sidelined during a prolonged stretch. The other top shooter in the rotation, Max Scherzer, has recently been hampered by a tight hamstring and won’t shoot until Friday at the earliest. Not wanting to rearrange their roster of Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker later in the rotation, Showalter needed another option for Thursday.

And so, the unveiling of the 2022 Mets — a team that was rebuilt in the offseason largely thanks to owner Steve Cohen’s money — will come with 26-year-old Megill on the mound. Last season, he threw a 4.52 ERA in 18 starts for the team after being forced into the emergency department with injured key pitchers.

Tylor Megill made 18 starts for the Mets last season in his freshman year.
Corey Sipkins

“Keep in mind it’s a long season,” Showalter said. “It’s opening day and it’s early in the season, but I don’t think anyone remembers who pitched opening day in about a month.”

The new Mets on display will include Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, who arrived in the offseason on free agent deals (with Scherzer) that helped boost the Mets’ payroll to $285 million. And then there’s Showalter, 65, about to begin his fifth major league managerial term. When he was last seen coaching a New York team, he took the Yankees to the playoffs in 1995.

“He’s really organized, he’s precise, he tries to be prepared,” Brandon Nimmo said. “I don’t think we’re going to lose a game because Buck wasn’t prepared, so I guess we’re going to be prepared for this season, we’re going to be very prepared for every situation and he’s going to expect a lot from us.

Mets general manager Billy Eppler loves the team he’s built, but stopped short of calling it complete.

“I always look at where things can be improved,” Eppler said. “You think about the mound, you think about the position of the players, it’s just part of my job to really look at these things objectively, with my staff. I can always point to something… if we can do something in a particular area to strengthen or add depth, those will be important things for us to do.

For Eppler and Showalter, it’s been a hectic week trying to formulate a plan through the latest wounds. In addition to deGrom and Scherzer, the team monitored Nimmo, who received a cortisone injection on Monday for a stiff neck. His status won’t be decided until Thursday’s game.

“I’m surprised it took this long,” Showalter said, referring to the injury cascade. “When we arrive, we always know something else is coming. That’s part of it. Everyone dealt with it in the spring. Nobody wants to hear you complain about it, it’s part of the gig.

After condensed spring training, Showalter was just glad to have arrived at this moment, the precipice of a new season.

“We’ve come a long way since lockdown,” he said. “Think about where we are, to hear gloves jumping and guys, you can see they have a little different look on their faces.”