The New York Mets touted their offseason signings of Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young to anyone who would listen, but conspicuously absent from that list was the addition of a lock down bullpen arm. The Mets’ bullpen has been one of the worst in baseball for several years running now, not coincidentally coinciding with the Mets’ current streak of missing the playoffs, and the front office appeared to gloss over it once again this offseason.
While general manager Sandy Alderson has attempted to acquire relievers in past seasons, such as DJ Carrasco, Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez among others, this year’s bullpen additions consisted of a host of minor league deals with Spring Training invites. To be fair, one of those minor league deals, Jose Valverde, appears to have regained his mojo somewhat, pumping mid 90 mph fastballs by the Washington Nationals on Opening Day. However, beyond Valverde, the New York bullpen contains as much uncertainty as it has during the past few seasons.
While Met fans were concerned about the bullpen entering the season, spring optimism abounded for most — at least until the ‘pen entered the game in the seventh inning. The first two relievers, Carlos Torres and Scott Rice, tasked with getting one out to get out of a jam, combined for eight consecutive pitches out of the strike zone, which forced in the tying run. After Valverde put the fire out and pitched a clean eighth inning, the rest of the New York bullpen reared its ugly head again.
Closer Bobby Parnell, coming off surgery to correct a herniated disc in his neck and throwing in the low 90s instead of his trademark high 90s fastball, was summoned for the ninth inning where he promptly surrendered the one run lead New York had obtained in the bottom of the eighth. Jeurys Familia followed in the 10th and was more unlucky than unsightly, as he was victimized by two bloops and a passed ball by catcher Travis d’Arnaud, which ultimately led to the go-ahead run scoring. To cap it off, new Mets reliever John Lannan gave up a three-run bomb to Anthony Rendon which successfully put the game out of reach.
Of the six Met relievers to take the mound on Opening Day, only two of them didn’t allow a run and those were Torres and Rice, who both walked the only batter they faced. Gonzalez Germen was one of the only Mets relievers to escape criticism and that was simply because he was the only one not to pitch in yesterday’s debacle.
Alderson has been lauded for his rebuilding of the organizational depth, but one thing he has failed miserably at is building a successful bullpen. In his three plus seasons as Mets GM, the New York bullpen has ranked near the bottom of the league in every season. Although the front office tells the fans that help is on the way with the likes of Jeff Walters, Cory Mazzoni, Jacob de Grom and even Rafael Montero possibly joining the pen mid-summer, Met fans have seen this movie before.
It’s never wise to draw too many conclusions based on one game, especially the first game of the season, and one can only hope that Opening Day was a mere blip on the radar. However, given how things have played out since 2008, you’ll have to excuse the fans if they have bullpen PTSD already in 2014.