Francisco Rodriguez got out of it last night, but it got a little dicey in the end. That’s OK, because when it’s anybody else things get a lot dicey.
One of the best things about Mike Pelfrey’s eight-inning gem is it kept Jerry Manuel from going to his combustible bullpen. The bullpen, which started so well in April, has strained from overuse and evolved into a club concern.
Here we are, June, and the Mets are still trying to find and define roles for their relievers, something that should have been done in March. However, because of ineffectiveness and injury, things change.
For one, Hisanori Takahashi, so effective early is not longer in the pen after being thrust into the rotation. How long Takahashi stays there is anybody’s guess. After two strong starts, Takahashi was raked by the Padres Monday night.
Now in the pen, taking up a spot, is Oliver Perez, now the human white flag in that he will come into the game when it is a lost cause or there are no other options, such as a game going long into extra innings.
The concern now is building a strong bridge to Rodriguez.
Before popping his hamstring, Ryota Igarashi was making claims to be the set-up man, and that’s what Manuel hoped when he came off the disabled list just under two weeks ago.
Igarashi has been awful since coming back, with the bottom possibly being reached Monday night when he gave up six runs on four hits and two walks in a mere one-third of an inning.
Three games earlier, in Milwaukee, Igarashi threw away Johan Santana’s gem by giving up a game-ending homer to Corey Hart.
Manuel said the problem is more mechanical than anything, and he won’t work it out any time soon in the eighth inning.
“I still see good arm strength and good arm-speed on his splitter,’’ Manuel said. “But it’s just not having the command. Everything is over the heart of the plate and straight. It doesn’t matter if it’s 96 [mph] or 97, if it’s straight at this level it gets hit.’’
Raul Valdes, who pitched well in relief of John Maine’s five-pitch outing, has been ineffective since. However, Valdes is better suited than anybody right now to assume a long reliever role.
Also spotty is Fernando Nieve, overused in April and early May, is feeling the effects now.
Pedro Feliciano covets the eighth inning, but Manuel is content on using him in a situational role against lefty hitters.
Jenrry Mejia has been reliable, but Manuel wants to hide him from the pressure roles. Manuel said last night in San Diego he’s no longer considering Mejia for the eighth inning, saying “there is a little too much traffic once he takes the mound.’’
Indeed, Mejia’s strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 16-13. Perhaps that will get ironed out the more he pitches as a starter next year.
So, for now, the eighth-inning guy could be Elmer Dessens, who came off the plane from Buffalo and gave up the game-winning hit in the first Yankee game.
I’m comforted. Are you?