As of May 6, the New York Mets bullpen is starting to show signs of wear and tear.
Carlos Torres was unavailable for the second straight game with an upper lat injury, which the Mets don’t consider serious. Daisuke Matsuzaka seemingly hurt his calf in Colorado, but pitched in last night’s game. Whether the injury bothered him or not, Dice-K did not have the command that has made him surprisingly successful as a relief pitcher this year.
On top of that, Kyle Farnsworth has been admirable since being pressed into the closer’s role following Bobby Parnell‘s injury, but he’s 38. How long can he throw full-bore on a semi-nightly basis before possibly wearing down? And 36 year-old Jose Valverde has been unreliable. At some point this season, probably soon, New York will need some reinforcements in the ‘pen. Here’s a look at some internal candidates.
At triple-A, the Mets have several options, not all of whom are currently working out of the bullpen. The Mets’ front office has been talking about using a starting pitcher prospect as a reliever in the majors. Jacob deGrom has been the best of the Mets’ “big three” prospects in Las Vegas so far, going 4-0 with an 1.89 ERA. Rafael Montero has had his ups and downs in the hitter-friendly PCL this year, but he’s 3-1 with a 4.21 and a respectable 1.24 WHIP. Noah Syndergaard has not been mentioned as a relief possibility. Current major leaguer Jenrry Mejia could be a candidate for the bullpen, but not quite yet.
Moving a young starter into a relief role is a double-edged sword. It allows the team to keep them under their innings limits for the year, but it also puts them in a role that could undue strain on their arms if they’re not handled properly. Mejia himself was used sporadically as a relief pitcher in 2010, and that irregular use may have contributed to the elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
It all comes down to how they are handled. Other teams have successfully introduced their starting prospects to the majors as relief pitchers, and Terry Collins‘ bullpen management has been very questionable at times in his tenure with the Mets.
In the minor league bullpen, Vic Black, who was expected to be a late-inning reliever for the Mets this year, battled his command in Spring Training to the point that he had to start the season at triple-A. He’s pitched better of late, however. His velocity is up and his command is improving. He still has 10 walks, but most of those came earlier in the season.
Jeff Walters, who was lights out at double-A Binghamton last year, has had trouble adjusting to triple-A. He has six saves, but a 9.82 ERA. Miguel Socolovich and Joel Carreno, two pitchers who are not considered prospects, are off to fine starts for the 51s this year, and could be considered for the major league bullpen. At double-A, Jack Leathersich has righted the ship after a shaky start. He’s walked nine, but struck out 20 batters in only 11 innings.
So the Mets have options within their organization if they feel the bullpen needs reinforcements. The way they’ve been banged up both physically and on the mound the past few games, those reinforcements better be at the ready.