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Mar 26, 2024 8:50 pm

Brewers, Mets embark on new eras in season opener

Jose Quintana Mets

Opening Day for the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers will not mark the beginning of a second stint for David Stearns and Craig Counsell as a general manager-manager tandem.

But both teams will begin new eras Thursday afternoon when the Mets host the Brewers.

Left-hander Jose Quintana (3-6, 3.57 ERA in 2023) is slated to start for the Mets against Brewers right-hander Freddy Peralta (12-10, 3.86 in 2023).

The Mets endured a disappointing 2023 season, when they finished fourth in the National League East with a 75-87 record. The Brewers went 92-70 and won the NL Central before they were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a best-of-three wild-card series.

Despite the different results, both teams embarked upon rebuilding projects.

Mets manager Buck Showalter was fired before the regular-season finale Oct. 1, one day before Stearns — who was the Brewers’ general manager from September 2015 until the end of the 2022 season — was hired as the team’s president of baseball operations.

Many observers believed Counsell, the only skipper Stearns employed in Milwaukee, would follow him to New York after his contract with the Brewers expired following last season. But Counsell, a Wisconsin native, headed to the Chicago Cubs, who fired manager David Ross and signed Counsell to a five-year deal worth $40 million — the most lucrative contract ever for a manager — on Nov. 6.

Instead, the Mets hired former New York Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza as manager Nov. 13, two days before the Brewers elevated their bench coach, Pat Murphy, to replace Counsell.

Both men will be overseeing revamped clubs. The Mets entered last season with the highest payroll in baseball history before dealing veterans such as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at the trade deadline. In Stearns’ first winter at the helm, left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea was the only signee who inked a multi-year contract.

The Mets’ rotation lacks an ace without Scherzer or Verlander and with NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Kodai Senga out until at least May with a shoulder injury. But New York is hopeful the return of All-Star closer Edwin Diaz, who missed last season with a knee injury suffered at the World Baseball Classic, will lengthen the bullpen. The team also hopes that the late addition of designated J.D. Martinez will fortify a lineup that includes three-time 40-homer hitter Pete Alonso.

“We’ve talked about being competitive and my expectation is we will be,” owner Steve Cohen said in March. “I think the general expectations are pretty low and I think we’re going to surprise.”

The Brewers — who made the playoffs five times in the last six seasons after just four postseason appearances in the franchise’s first 49 years — have retooled. They traded 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner and impending free agent Corbin Burnes to the Baltimore Orioles.

Now Freddy Peralta is the only member of the rotation who threw at least 125 innings for the club last season.

But even without closer Devin Williams, who is out until at least June with stress fractures in his back, the Brewers return the bulk of a bullpen that averaged more than a strikeout per inning last season. In addition, veteran free agent signee Rhys Hoskins is expected to step in as the cleanup hitter and highly touted 20-year-old outfield prospect Jackson Chourio is slated to make his big-league debut Thursday.

“I kind of like the position we’re in,” veteran left-hander Wade Miley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The last couple of years, it’s been more favorable with the arms we had and the teams we had put together. But then lose a couple of guys and it’s like, ‘Back to the cellar they go.’ Like, no. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Quintana is 9-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 21 career games (20 starts) against the Brewers. Peralta is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in two starts against the Mets.

–Field Level Media

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