Steven Matz returns to rotation in big start vs. Braves

PHILADELPHIA — The forgotten man from the Mets’ original rotation this season will return Friday.

It’s been a year to forget for Steven Matz — who sputtered early, got demoted to the bullpen then hit the injured list. Now the left-hander will just try to rinse a sour 2020 taste from his mouth with potentially two opportunities to show the Mets something.

Matz will start against the Braves at Citi Field, after manager Luis Rojas adjusted his rotation to add a fifth starter after skipping Michael Wacha the last time through. David Peterson is receiving an extra day of rest and will pitch Saturday.

The last time Matz pitched, he provided the Mets with one inning of shutout relief at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 29. The following day he was placed on the IL with left shoulder bursitis.

In six appearances this season, five of them as a starter, Matz is 0-4 with an 8.63 ERA. It has come after a strong second half for Matz last season in which he emerged as a dependable back end of the rotation piece.

Steven Matz
Steven MatzN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Rojas would like to believe Matz had begun getting straightened out following his demotion to the bullpen.

“It was a one-inning outing he had at Yankee Stadium before the IL, but he looked so much better than the outing before we intended to use him out of the pen,” Rojas said before the Mets’ 10-6 win over the Phillies.

“[Pitching coach] Jeremy Hefner feels real comfortable about how he is throwing the ball, how he feels and where he is at right now, what I saw that day talking to him, I think he’s in a good place right now.

“We are giving the ball to Matzy right now and he’s working on the things he needs to improve — which is his command, pitch sequencing, everything that he needs to go attack batters with his stuff and get outs. We feel real good about him getting the ball.”

Wacha has also largely disappointed this season, but the veteran right-hander performed nicely in relief Wednesday, allowing one run on four innings after Jacob deGrom departed with a right hamstring spasm. Still, if Matz can give the Mets a decent outing Friday, there’s no reason to believe he won’t start again next week, likely against the Rays at Citi Field.

Matz, who is under club control through next season, is attempting to show he’s worthy of a job in 2021. As it stands, deGrom, Peterson, Matz and Seth Lugo are the only healthy starting pitchers signed or under club control for next year. But for a team clinging to slim postseason aspirations, it’s still about this year.

“Some of the challenges that we have in our starting rotation and the needs of guys like Matzy to show up, Wacha and [Rick] Porcello, those guys to show up, it would be huge if those guys finish up pitching strong,” Rojas said.

“[Matz] has worked on some things, he definitely wants to come in and compete and also show his team he can help us win some games.”