PORT ST. LUCIE — Max Scherzer will get first dibs in the regular season, with his co-ace and fellow three-time Cy Young award winner scheduled for the home opener a week later.
The Mets’ rotation plan to start the season, according to sources, will place Scherzer on the mound for Opening Day in Miami on March 30.
Justin Verlander would pitch later in that series and then return for the April 6 home opener against the Marlins at Citi Field.
The Opening Day start will be Scherzer’s first with the Mets.
Last season the right-hander was coming off an injury late in camp that pushed him to the season’s second game, giving Tylor Megill the opener in Washington.
The original plan had been to give Jacob deGrom the opener last year, but he began the season on the injured list and didn’t pitch until August.
Earlier this spring, manager Buck Showalter hinted that whoever pitches the home opener among his two aces might be slotted for Game 3 of the regular season, allowing that pitcher to throw on regular rest on April 6.
The Mets play a four-game series in Miami to start the season before heading to Milwaukee for three games and then coming home, without an off day during that stretch.
Showalter has noted the certainty of playing seven straight days in April, given that both Miami and Milwaukee have ballparks with retractable roofs.
Verlander dazzled in his exhibition start against the Cardinals on Wednesday, firing five shutout innings in which he allowed one hit and struck out eight.
“I need some work — ironically I felt a little sloppy today,” Verlander said on a day the Mets lost 4-1 at Clover Park. “Spring training isn’t necessarily about results … today was one of those days where I felt the slider was a little loose. I need to tighten it up a little bit.”
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Alec Burleson’s line drive leading off the second inning struck Verlander in the right calf — the right-hander expects to be sore for a few days — but wasn’t serious enough to keep him from continuing.
Verlander has pitched to a 1.59 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 11 ¹/₃ innings over his three starts in the Grapefruit League.
He figures to receive two additional starts this spring before getting the ball for his real Mets debut, in the team’s opening series.
As for the slider that he didn’t deem his best on Wednesday, Verlander said the reactions he received from the hitters was the indicator.
“I think they recognized it a bit and they had some good takes on it and the ones they did swing and miss at I felt like they recognized it just enough to stay back instead of going to hit the fastball and adjusting to it,” Verlander said. “They saw it. It just beat them a little bit with the movement. Ideally when it’s right it looks a lot more like a fastball. That is why I need to tighten it up a little bit. I also may be thinking too much into it but that is what I do.”
Scherzer was asked before the game about the significance of receiving the Opening Day assignment.
Since the decision hasn’t been officially announced, Scherzer wouldn’t confirm it.
“If it is, it’s awesome,” Scherzer said. “It’s definitely an honor. You’re the first pitcher up and it’s a fun day, especially if it is Opening Day, you take the ball and a sold out crowd, it’s a fun environment. But at the end of the day it is just one start out of 162. It’s a nice feather in the cap, but it doesn’t mean everything because the rest of the games matter just as much.”
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