Apr 16

Bullpen Collapses To Waste DeGrom Start

How the Mets respond from losing tonight will send a greater message to the Nationals than their 12-2 record going into the game, which includes a sweep in Washington the first week in April. The here-to-fore excellent Mets’ bullpen coughed up a five-run, eighth-inning lead – and in the process kicked away a brilliant outing from Jacob deGrom – in a potentially defining moment for both teams.

Will the Nationals build off their 8-6 victory and this climb their way back to the top of the NL East? Or, will the Mets revert to the form most expected of them heading into this season?

Or, can they brush this off and keep showing their early-season resiliency?

“It’s one inning — it wasn’t even a game,” manager Mickey Callaway said of the crazy eighth in which five Mets’ relievers faced 12 Washington hitters and gave up six runs. “We outplayed them for the rest of the game. We just have to realize it was one bad inning, we didn’t get the job done. We’ll learn from it and make sure it doesn’t throw us into some kind of tailspin because we’re a real good team and we’ve been showing that.”

That Callaway would even the acknowledge the possibility of one game exploding into a slide shows an understanding of recent Mets’ history.

DeGrom cruised into the eighth, but quickly gave up hits to two of the first three hitters he faced. Callaway went to Seth Lugo, who walked the only hitter he faced to load the bases. Enter Jerry Blevins to face Bryce Harper, who greeted him with a two-run single.

AJ Ramos came in and gave up a single and bases-loaded walk to former Met Matt Reynolds. Then say hello to Jeurys Familia, who gave up a two-run single and another bases-loaded walk. Callaway might expect one or two relievers to have problems, but not the entire bullpen.

“It’s a rare thing. It shouldn’t happen, but maybe guys shut down mentally,’’ Callaway said his relievers collectively mailed it in because they didn’t expect to pitch.

Ramos wanted no part of that thinking.

“We pride ourselves on being ready,’’ Ramos said. “We just didn’t get the job done. There are no excuses.’’

None at all.

 

Apr 04

Mets’ Bullpen Rising To Occasion

It has only been five games for the Mets, but the early returns on manager Mickey Callaway’s use of his bullpen, especially with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have been good.

Tuesday night, Lugo relieved Matt Harvey – and two other relievers – after five innings and pitched two scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory, and today, Gsellman relieved Noah Syndergaard after four innings (92 pitches) in a 4-2 victory.

Gsellman pitched two scoreless innings in earning the victory, then was followed by single scoreless innings from Hansel Robles, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.

After Harvey was pulled, Ramos entered and allowed two runners to reach and got two outs before he was replaced by Jerry Blevins, who closed out the sixth. Normally, Ramos and Blevins wouldn’t have been in the game that early.

However, Callaway’s theory is to not restrict his relievers by assigned innings, but go with the best match-ups.

And, Lugo and Gsellman pitching multiple innings is something Terry Collins normally wouldn’t have done.

“Our bullpen has done a fantastic job so far this season and we have faith in them,’’ said Callaway. “Everybody is doing the right thing. We are working on the small things, like Robles for example. He went down [to minor league camp], worked on the right things and comes out today and pitches a huge inning for us. I am really proud of those guys for that.”

Robles, who I’m not a fan of, has been terrific and today struck out the side in the seventh.

It has been a good start of the season for the Mets, who at 4-1, will be in Washington for the start of a three-game series. Oh, by the way, snow is forecast for Washington this weekend.

There are a lot of reasons why the Mets collapsed last season after consecutive playoff appearances and the bullpen was as big of an explanation as any. A lot of things have to happen if they are to recover enough to be competitive. And, the bullpen has to play a big part.

So far, so good.

Mar 31

Mets Wrap: Small Ball Prevails Again

The Mets hit a couple of homers, but that is the least important thing to take out of their 6-2 victory today over the Cardinals. Instead, focus on how they made things happen on the bases; how Jacob deGrom was effective despite not having his best stuff; and how Mickey Callaway will handle his stressed bullpen tomorrow.

DE GROM: Grinds it out. (AP)

DE GROM: Grinds it out. (AP)

Small ball prevails again: Callaway stressed base running in spring training and the Mets kept the pressure on all day. In the first, Jay Bruce scored from first on Todd Frazier’s two-run double, with Frazier taking third on the throw home. … Then, in the seventh, even more impressive than his homer, was Yoenis Cespedes tagging and taking third on Frazier’s shallow sacrifice fly.

There seems something different about the Mets’ offense. It’s refreshing to see their hustle and patience at the plate.

Of course, it has only been two games.

DeGrom grinds it out: Throwing 101 pitches in 5.2 innings is indicative of deGrom not having his best stuff, in particular, his change-up was off.

“I felt good early on,’’ deGrom said. “But, I thought I was flying open a little bit and it was tough to grip the ball. There are days when you have your best stuff and days you don’t. That’s when you have to bear down.’’

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who hit the Mets’ first homer of the season, said deGrom reached another level as evidenced by seven strikeouts.

“He didn’t have his best stuff,’’ d’Arnaud said. “But, he went out and made the pitches when he had to.’’

Not all peachy: These being the Mets, of course, there’s always a glitch. Today it was Anthony Swarzak straining his left oblique muscle, which forced Jeurys Familia to get a four-out save.

Swarzak’s answer as to the severity of the injury illustrated how new he is to the Mets: “I’m not a doctor, so I really don’t know.  We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, this is just a little scare.’’

GM Sandy Alderson never answered an injury-related question in that manner.

It’s likely Swarzak will miss several games – it would be wise not to pitch him in the chilly weather – but could end up on the disabled list.

It will be interesting to see what Callaway does Sunday if faced with a save situation. Familia threw 30 pitches today, but Callaway said early in camp he wasn’t married to having a designated closer.

Given that don’t be surprised if AJ Ramos gets the ball in the ninth.

Feb 22

Mets Must Make Decision On Wheeler

Zack Wheeler gets the ball tomorrow against the Braves in their exhibition opener. He’ll get roughly 30 pitches or two innings.

It’s one of five appearances he’ll get this spring to prove his elbow is sound enough for him to make the Mets’ rotation. There’s also been talk about trying him out of the bullpen, or him staying back.

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the possibility of him working out of the pen. I’m aware of the concern over the up-and-down nature of a reliever being an injury risk, just as the probability of breaking down after pitching on consecutive days.

The biggest chance for injury is if the Mets plan for him to start then switch direction and try him out of the pen. Or, do the opposite in working him in the bullpen during spring training then switching gears during the season.

This is what happened with Jenrry Mejia, who bounced around from the rotation to the pen and back again, only to blow out his arm.

It’s too simplistic to say, “Well, he’s a pitcher, just throw the damn ball.’’

There have been plenty of pitchers to go from the rotation to star in the bullpen. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz all made the transition and starred. Smoltz even went back to the rotation, but the key was it wasn’t done during the season.

I don’t know what the Mets will decide to do with Wheeler, but whatever they do, for this year at least they can’t deviate. Make the decision and stick with it, even if he opens the season in the minors. If they decide to pitch him out of the bullpen, then send him to the minors, he must pitch in relief at Las Vegas.

I’m intrigued by the idea of Wheeler pitching out of the pen. He has a live fastball – his out pitch – and from starting he has a secondary pitch. If he can control his command issues, he could be an effective reliever.

He gets into trouble facing a lineup the third time through when his pitch count rises so maybe being a closer would suit him.

Plus, are you all that convinced Jeurys Familia is a great closer. Both he and AJ Ramos will be free agents in 2019, so it would be beneficial to prepare for them leaving.

Unlike Sandy Alderson, I don’t see the Mets competing this year, so getting some answers would be a good thing.

 

Dec 01

Mets Tender Contracts To Nine

As expected, the Mets tendered 2018 contracts to all nine of their arbitration-eligible players today. The list includes four of their projected starters and two back-end relievers.

Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler were offered contracts, as were Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Hansel Robles, catcher Travis d’Arnaud and infielder Wilmer Flores.

This action ensures these players will play for the Mets next season. Any arbitration-eligible player tendered to a contract must either accept the offer or go through an arbitration hearing.

All nine are expected to go through the arbitration process.