With Jenrry Mejia set to undergo season-ending elbow surgery, there was a vacant rotation spot the Mets had to fill. They could have slid up Matt Harvey and had him pitch on regular rest Friday against the Tigers.
But in the interest of providing extra rest for Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the Mets have made a pair of moves ahead of Friday night's series opener against Detroit at Citi Field. First, they planned to shift Carlos Torres from the bullpen back to the rotation to make his first start since July 28. But on Thursday, the club agreed on a deal with former Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, and he will be thrown into action immediately as Friday's starting pitcher.
Matsuzaka was released by the Indians. The veteran right-hander, who had an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts for Boston last year, posted a 3.92 mark in 19 outings for Cleveland's Triple-A Columbus affiliate.
"It was more just a function of opportunity," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said of Matsuzaka's release. "We didn't have an immediate Major League opportunity for Daisuke. He'd been throwing well in Triple-A and thought that he may have a better opportunity elsewhere. So he asked for his release, and we granted it."
Torres was 1-1 with a 6.43 ERA during a three-game stretch in the rotation. He gave up only two runs in 11 innings over his first two starts before the Nationals pounded him for eight runs in three innings in his third outing. But he's thrived as a reliever, going 1-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings.
"When he first came here, he pitched out of the bullpen and pitched great. But he got here because of what he had done in Triple-A as a starting pitcher," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He had two very successful starts and then got beat up one game, which is going to happen to anybody. We made a couple pitching changes and put him back in the 'pen and thought he had some success."
Matsuzaka will face quite a challenge in the Tigers' lineup, and lining up opposite Detroit right-hander Doug Fister isn't exactly an easy assignment, either. Although he hasn't picked up a win since Aug. 2, Fister is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA since the All-Star break.
Facing the Royals on Saturday, Fister allowed three runs on 10 hits while walking two and striking out six.
The series also sets up a reunion for Collins and Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who gave Collins his first big league coaching job with the Pirates in 1992. Collins wears No. 10 in honor of Leyland.
"With their manager, I'm partial because I like him so much, but I think he's done a terrific job," Leyland said. "I think they obviously have some pretty good arms with the Wheeler kid and of course the big man, Harvey. The kid [Dillon] Gee has pitched very well for them. I think they've done a very, very good job. I think they got a lot out of their situation so far. I've watched them the last couple days, and they all played very hard, they're all competitive, they all grind out their at-bats and I'm impressed with them."
The Mets are 25-22 since the start of July.
Tigers: Cabrera banged up, still playing
• Third baseman Miguel Cabrera has dealt with abdominal, hip and leg injuries this season, and he showed some obvious pain during Tuesday night's loss to the Twins. But that didn't keep him out of the lineup on Wednesday or Thursday, as he continues his march toward a second straight Triple Crown.
Cabrera came up as the potential tying run Tuesday against Twins closer Glen Perkins and grimaced while swinging through a first-pitch slider. He wasn't tended to by a trainer, but he was clearly in some sort of pain. Leyland admitted Cabrera "reacted with some pain," and he said, "I could tell when he came up the steps he was hurting a little bit."
• Catcher Brayan Pena expects to be ready for Friday's game after being out of the lineup for a second straight game on Thursday. Pena jammed the big toe on his right foot on Tuesday, but it had improved enough by Thursday that he was able to pinch-hit.
With the Tigers playing in a National League Park this weekend, Leyland could opt to start Victor Martinez at catcher instead of Pena or Bryan Holaday.
Mets: Collins has Leyland's respect
• Leyland remembers Collins coming to the Pirates organization as a Triple-A manager and joining Leyland's staff for Spring Training. At the time, he impressed Leyland with his intelligence, knowledge of the infield and ability to throw good batting practice.
Collins went on to manage the Astros from 1994-96 and the Angels from '97-'99, then going a long time before getting another chance with the Mets in 2011. Like Leyland, Collins never made it to the Majors as a player, something Leyland believes makes the job more difficult because, "A lot of players probably didn't know who the [heck] we were." But Leyland praised the job Collins has done with the rebuilding Mets.
"I really credit him, I'll be honest with you," Leyland said. "What he's doing, and I hate to ever say I couldn't do anything, but what he's doing, I couldn't manage in New York. I wouldn't be able to handle it, but he's handled it very well. I like New York, but I would not have been able to handle it. It's too big for me."
• John Buck got the start at catcher Wednesday afternoon against the Braves, the first time he's been in the lineup since Travis d'Arnaud was promoted. Collins said "there is no ratio" regarding how often Buck will start, just that he'll get more playing time than former backup catcher Anthony Recker.
• Mets rookie Josh Satin has reached base safely in each of the 29 games he's started this season, tied with Steve Henderson (1977) for the club's rookie record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
• Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit has a 2-0 record, a 1.21 ERA, 14 saves and 31 strikeouts over his past 30 outings dating back to May 28.