DENVER -- New York Mets right-hander Logan Verrett briefly went from pitcher to comedian when fans and media questioned the wisdom of skipping Matt Harvey and instead giving the rookie a spot start against the Colorado Rockies.
"I joked with Matt the other day," Verrett said. "I said, 'Why is everybody freaking out? Don't they know I'm a way better pitcher than you are?'
"He laughed. It was just all fun. He's a good guy. We played together a few years back in the Cape Cod summer league. I think he knew I'd be able to go out there and give us a chance to win a ballgame."
Verrett, 25, exceeded all reasonable expectations in his first major league start while subbing for Harvey, who was having his innings conserved. Verrett limited the Rockies to one run on four hits, a walk and a hit batter in eight innings as the Mets completed a sweep with a 5-1 win on Sunday at Coors Field.
Verrett earned his first major league win, then avoided being demoted postgame with the Mets needing to clear a roster spot for the return of David Wright from the disabled list. After Verrett recovers from Sunday's 91-pitch effort, he will be assigned to a late-inning relief role beginning Thursday. He also figures to get a spot start for Noah Syndergaard in the not-too-distant future.
Coupled with his previous relief work, Verrett has a 0.84 ERA in 21⅓ innings with the Mets this season.
"I don't think his job was to replace Matt Harvey today," catcher Anthony Recker said. "We just wanted him to go out there and give us six, seven quality innings. He was able to give us eight very quality innings. He did an amazing job saving the bullpen there."
The opening two games of the series had been identical 14-9 slugfests at high-altitude Coors Field. Yet Verrett was able to limit the damage to a solo homer on a changeup to Carlos Gonzalez in the fourth inning.
"Every game is different," Verrett said. "And those 14-9 games, that's wearing down both sides. The hitters are going into that third game running the bases hard every single day. I knew there was the possibility of them being a little bit more tired today. I just tried to attack the hitters. You can't think about it too much because that's when you really get in trouble."
Manager Terry Collins suggested Verrett benefited from his high-altitude experience. Verrett spent last season pitching for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League. He also had starts in that league at Salt Lake City and El Paso earlier this month before returning to the majors.
"I think it definitely helped pitching on the West Coast," Verrett said. "You're kind of used to the pop-ups always having a chance to go out. So you try to keep that ball down a little more, focus a little more on every pitch."
As for the lone blemish, Verrett added: "You don't throw CarGo changeups belt-high down the middle."
Las Vegas manager Wally Backman recently told Collins that Verrett is a significantly better pitcher than in 2014, when Verrett went 11-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 28 starts for the 51s and then was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft.
Collins surmised that Verrett must have learned plenty in big league camp this spring training with the Baltimore Orioles, who had selected Verrett in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings. Verrett nearly made their Opening Day roster, but was among the final cuts. He was selected by the Texas Rangers on Rule 5 waivers on the eve of the regular season and made his major league debut with the American League West club, but ultimately was returned to the Mets and reassigned to Las Vegas in early May.
"I think I learned a little bit everywhere I've been this year -- with the Orioles, with the Rangers, back in Las Vegas, and up here," Verrett said. "Everybody that I've played with has kind of had an influence and helped me out this year. As far as taking a step forward, absolutely. That's what you look for every single year is to be progressing and not just staying the same. Whether it's controlling the running game, just commanding of the zone a little bit better, it doesn't matter, as long as you're getting better."
With left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez the casualty to clear the roster spot for Wright, and with no more moves foreseeable before rosters expand on Sept. 1, Verrett looks like he will complete the season at the major league level.
"It's a good feeling. I'm not going to lie," Verrett said. "Everybody during their rookie season for the most part goes up and down quite a bit. As far as that side, the business side, I understand completely. To be up here, and knowing that I'm probably going to stick for the rest of the year, it's quite a relief and a good feeling, especially with us in the playoff hunt right now."