Mets’ David Peterson finding form at right time with future still uncertain

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David Peterson Mets
David Peterson (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

QUEENS — This is the David Peterson that Mets manager Buck Showalter has been opining for throughout the 2023 season. 

Sunday afternoon at Citi Field saw New York’s southpaw starting pitcher spin his best start of the campaign, going seven innings for the first time this year while allowing just one run on three hits with eight strikeouts in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

This comes in just his fifth start since returning to the starting rotation after he was demoted to the bullpen in July.

“It was good to get back on track,” Peterson said. “In-game, that’s one of the best I felt this year. It felt good to get deep into the game again and get over 100 pitches, especially after the build-up. That’s one of the ones in which I felt better.”

That initial move to the pen was prompted by the return of Jose Quintana as much as it was his 6.46 ERA as a starter, which also included a five-week demotion after he was hammered for six runs on nine hits on May 15 against the Washington Nationals to skyrocket his season ERA at the time to 8.08. The crux of those struggles came from his mechanics which ultimately hampered his command.

“It’s about repeating things and body control,” Showalter. “He’s not my height and he’s not your height. He’s 6-foot-6 and there’s a lot of moving parts in there.

“Everybody’s trying to chase a delivery that they can stay in so you can execute pitches and when you get out of it, can you self-coach yourself to get back in it? That’s the challenge that all pitchers face.”

David Peterson Mets
Mets starter David Peterson (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

But when the Mets traded Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at the Aug. 1 deadline, there was no choice but to call Peterson back into the rotation alongside Tylor Megill — both of whom appeared to be getting one last opportunity to show the organization that they’re still viable options for the starting rotation.

“I want them to be more than depth,” Showalter said on Aug. 17. “I want them to be one of the guys, I want them to graduate. We need them to graduate for a lot of reasons. They show flashes of it and then — if you’re taking two steps forward, one step back, I’m OK with that. But we can’t quite get over that hump sometimes. [He and Peterson are] not 24, 25.

“They’re 27, 28… I want them to be a guy we can count on. I want them to use these starts to make us think he could be and should be.”

Building up to a starter’s workload in his first four appearances upon the 27-year-old’s reintroduction to the rotation beginning on Aug. 4 suggested that progress was being made. Outside of a 4.2-inning outing when he was tagged for four runs on seven hits by the MLB-best Braves and their imposing offense, Peterson had allowed just three earned runs in his first 10.1 innings of work.

Sunday against the Angels provided a glimpse of ace-like stuff where he most notably retired Shohei Ohtani in each of their three meetings, which included a swinging strikeout to end the third inning. He now has a 3.27 ERA in his five starts since returning to the rotation.

“That was impressive,” Showalter said. “It was good to see. We needed a starter to go deep in the game and Pete dialled that up for us. He’s stayed in a good delivery for an extended period of time and this outing spoke to that.”

Shohei Ohtani Mets
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani reacts after foul tipping the ball off his foot during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

While the Mets as a whole are playing out the remainder of their schedule amidst a lost season, Peterson is one of a handful of players who are trying to prove to the organization that they can be contributing factors to next year’s squad.

“It’s big,” Peterson said of his gem. “It’s success to build off of to see what we need to improve, where we could have done better, and keep moving forward. It comes down to execution… So it’s coming along pretty well.”

A strong finish to 2023 will at least provide Mets brass with the notion that Peterson could be in the running for a bottom-of-the-rotation spot. Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana are the only two proven starters who will be under contract next season while Peterson tries to separate himself from the pack of Megill and Joey Lucchesi. 

General manager Billy Eppler will likely be forced to go to free agency to round out the rotation — and this winter’s crop of talent on the open market will provide plenty of options ranging from Sonny Gray to Julio Urias, to Lucas Giolito. So Peterson’s competition will only grow.

“The only thing you can control are your outings and the type of taste you leave in people’s mouths and the memories that believe about what they can be,” Showalter said. “And then do you trust it to be there again next year? Because it starts all over again in February and it’s all about trust. Can we trust you and on the flip side, can they trust us?”

For more on David Peterson and the Mets, visit AMNY.com