Mets’ Robert Gsellman comes up big in first appearance of season

Robert Gsellman immediately got tested in a high-leverage situation and emerged a bullpen hero for the Mets on Saturday.

In his first appearance since Aug. 11 of last season, the right-hander stifled the Marlins in the seventh inning — striking out two of the three batters he faced — playing a key role in the Mets’ 8-4 victory at Citi Field.

“His stuff was sharp and you could see the movement from the side, it was just nasty,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Some weird swings against him, whether it was the slider or the sinker. The sinker looked [nasty], like it was sinking at the very last moment at a high velocity.”

Gsellman’s dominance came after Jeurys Familia had walked three batters in the sixth, allowing the Marlins to score twice and pull within 5-4. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson each pitched a scoreless inning behind Gsellman, who missed summer camp with strained triceps. He was on the injured list for the final six weeks of last season with a strained lat.

Robert Gsellman
Robert GsellmanPaul J. Bereswill

The new normal for the Mets is J.D. Davis at third base and Jeff McNeil in left field.

With McNeil in the lineup for a second straight night after missing two games in Washington with an intercostal strain, Rojas stuck with a script he crafted earlier in the week and says he plans to largely maintain that direction.

McNeil, who began the season at third base but struggled defensively, appears destined to play left field.

“We are going to lean a little bit more toward this, what we had in the last few days,” Rojas said before Saturday’s win. “J.D. has shown really good athleticism at third, obviously his arm is always going to play there and his throws have been money, and [McNeil] played good left field for us last year and right field. We are just going to maintain it as that right now.”

Rojas was asked about the Marlins’ fast start to the season, despite replacing about half the roster following a COVID-19 outbreak in the opening week.

“They always play hard — last year they played hard every game, and that is one of the thing that stands out for that team,” Rojas said. “We call it, almost ‘reckless.’ They play hard. They have athletes and they take advantage of the athletes that they have and they are going to be doing that. It’s a very good, athletic young team.”

Rojas cited the impact veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli has on the organization’s young pitchers.

Pete Alonso started at DH for a second straight night with Dominic Smith at first base. Rojas said he wanted to keep Alonso off his feet to give him something of an extended break.

Marcus Stroman threw about 80 pitches in a simulated game Thursday in Brooklyn, according to Rojas, and has shown improved mobility as he rehabs from a torn left calf. The right-hander is scheduled to throw another simulated game in the coming days before he is re-evaluated.

Brad Brach has thrown back-to-back days in simulated games, but is still building up, according to Rojas.