In four games the Mets have used 10 relievers. And even in that short time frame, we’ve seen expected results for the best and the worst. Anyone being honest would look at a combination of 2019 and Spring Training/summer camp results and say that Seth Lugo was their best reliever. And he already has 3.1 scoreless innings, where he’s fanned four of the 11 batters he faced. On the opposite end, Corey Oswalt hasn’t shown us anything in the majors and he was pounded Sunday night. He’s already been replaced on the active roster and it’s possible we’ve seen his last performance as a Met.
The big question for manager Luis Rojas is how does he handle the bullpen when his best reliever won’t be able to go on back-to-back days many times during the season. The hope was that the Mets would have four guys capable of closing games in the pen. Besides Lugo, there was Dellin Betances, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. But early results for Diaz and Familia have been less than stellar. Which brings us to Betances.
He’s only been used in one game and was essentially treated as a ROOGY. He only faced three batters because after retiring his first two hitters and then allowing a single, he was removed with the lefty-hitting Matt Adams getting ready to hit. Rojas brought in his main lefty, Justin Wilson, who surrendered a hit to Adams.
Should Betances have pitched Monday? You could certainly make a case for that. However, it doesn’t seem to be anything to be too upset about. Familia got the eighth inning with a five-run lead. It’s hard to argue that you should put potentially your second-best reliever in a game at that spot. And when things blew up on Familia, it made sense to use Lugo for the 4-out save.
The good news is that Lugo came through. The good news is that Diaz wasn’t used for the third time in four games. The bad news is that through four games, somehow the Mets haven’t used a guy considered to be one of the top relievers for a full inning yet.
The preference will be to avoid using Lugo tonight. But what happens if the Mets are in a close game with the lead? Are you going to give the ball to Diaz again with a one-run lead? Maybe that’s exactly what needs to happen, for the Mets to show confidence in him. As a fan, just about the last guy I want to see in the ninth inning with the game on the line is Diaz. Can’t say the last guy, as Tyler Bashlor is back on the team now.
But while my gut tells me that Betances will be the guy at the end of the year – do you want to see him tonight? The guy who two nights ago wasn’t good enough to face Adams? It seems likely he gets a full inning in under his belt before he’s back out there in a save situation.
Hopefully the Mets again put a bunch of crooked numbers up on the board and get an early lead. But hopefully this time the pen can hold it without creating a save situation. And hopefully Betances comes in and doesn’t get subjected to a mid-inning pitching change because he gives up one hit.
In a shortened season, there’s a heightened emphasis on winning that day’s game. But there still needs to be a concern about the long run. And one of the things the Mets need to do to prepare for the long run is to have a reliable bullpen arm besides Lugo and Wilson. Diaz was given first crack at that and the results have been less than glorious. With one home run in the books and another ball that more than had the distance but fortunately landed foul, it appears that we still need to worry about the gopher ball. And all of the proclamations from the staff about how well Diaz is throwing the ball – the excuses we’ve heard for too long now – is just pissing in the wind.
Rojas and his staff have got to prepare Betances for a big role at the back of the pen. And if while doing that, Diaz finds his way back to 2018 form – so much the better. If somehow Betances, Diaz and Wilson are all performing well late, then maybe moving Lugo to the rotation becomes an option. Right now, that’s just a pipe dream, right up there with Diaz finding his 2018 form.