Mets Bullpen Finally Enters the Fast Lane
For several years, the Mets watched National League opponents roll in Ferraris, Corvettes and Porsche Carerras from their bullpens in the last three innings of a game, and the Mets tried to counter that with Ford Falcons, Plymouth Valiants and Chevy Cavaliers.
But the organization seems to have finally decided to turn its high-leverage innings over to a corps of young pitchers who can match the blazing, electric stuff so many opponents have been throwing at them over the final third of the game for the last few years.
While Matt Harvey’s absence this season has garnered a lot more attention, the fact is, the absence of Bobby Parnell was a much bigger detriment to the Mets in the first two months of the season than the loss of Harvey. The Mets’ starting rotation has been, by all accounts, the least of the team’s problems. But a 6-14 record in one-run games speaks to the need for the Mets to remake their bullpen, and they have.
The short-term results since making Jenrry Mejia the closer and assigning important, high-pressure roles to Jeurys Familia and Vic Black have been impressive, especially in the team’s current 6-1 stretch that included four victories in a lengthy five-game series with the Phillies that included three consecutive extra-inning games and a lot of opportunities for the restructured bullpen to sink or swim. Black’s knee-buckling curve is a remarkable compliment to his 97-mph fastball, but the caveat here is that, before coming up from Triple-A, Black had walked a batter an inning, even though he was exceedingly difficult for Pacific Coast League batters to hit.
In addition to their secondary pitches, Mejia, Familia and Black can all regularly push the radar gun into the mid- or upper-90s. In addition, right-hander Carlos Torres (2.38 ERA in 34 innings) has continued to exhibit the usefulness he showed in a variety of roles last season, and lefty Josh Edgin has shaken off a terrible spring to pitch effectively as the bullpen’s other spot lefty since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas. If Scott Rice, the other spot lefty, can start throwing strikes more consistently, a bullpen that was a glaring weakness just a few weeks ago can start to gain some real traction as a strength as the Mets try to push their way past .500.