Forget Cliff Lee, how about solidifying the bullpen so that the anxiety levels of Mets fans throughout the Tri-State can subside late in games?
Yesterday (7/3), Francisco Rodriguez blew his fourth save of the season as he failed to protect a 5-3 Met lead in the bottom of the ninth against the Nationals. Following Ivan Rodriguez’s walk-off single to right, there was no pounding of the chest, no blowing kisses and pointing to the sky for our closer. Instead, the loss dropped the Mets to a disappointing 2-4 on the current road trip against sub-.500 NL East foes.
At this point, I am reluctant to even keep my television tuned into games when K-Rod enters in a save situation. Simply put, K-Rod is lacking as a stopper. He lacks the intimidation factor he once possessed with the Angels. He lacks good movement and location of his pitches. And he no longer is able to blow hitters away with plus velocity. His fastball is as straight as an arrow, and he often hangs his curveball. K-Rod’s control is erratic, and he has made a habit of getting behind in counts and putting runners on base. Basically, Franky has not given Mets fans a reason to feel confident in the 9th inning with a 1-3 run lead this season. With all of this said however, the one ounce of acclaim I will give him is that when his change-up is working he can be effective.
This loss really hurt. It hurts that our “premium” closer couldn’t nail down a victory to help the Mets earn at least a series split on the road against the worst team in the division whose seemed to have had our number all year. It hurts that Jerry Manuel did not have the stones to take K-Rod out and let Pedro Feliciano face slugger Adam Dunn. Lets face it, K-Rod stunk. I feel that Manuel should have recognized this and sent the closer, and his ego, a message by yanking him in favor of a lefty-on-lefty match-up. But then again, Manuel hasn’t been known for his bullpen management this season, either.
I feel as though the Met bullpen is leaving something to be desired as a unit. What happened to the Turk Wendell’s and Dennis Cook’s of years past? Met relievers who would come into any situation and pitch with ferocity and attitude. Nothing ever too fancy, just hitting spots and getting guys out. Sure, Ryota Igarashi and Bobby Parnell can dial it up and generally have good stuff, but can we really trust these guys in the big spots?
Listen, I’m not in any way comparing the Met bullpen to the likes of the Diamondbacks’ or Royals’. There just has to be more consistency, not only from the back-end, but from middle relief as well.
In addition to the need to acquire a starting pitcher, the Mets should also look for a bullpen upgrade. It seems that this season there are more appealing arms on the market than someone like Luis Ayala.
A few names of interest that come to mind are Kerry Wood, David Aardsma, and ex-Met Octavio Dotel. Kerry Wood, to me, is most intriguing. I don’t like him closing for Cleveland, and I certainly would not want him closing for the Mets, however, his experience may prove to be valuable and I feel like he’d be coming back to the pitch in the NL with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
One thing is for certain, if the Mets cannot work out their bullpen kinks, then they might as well schedule their early-October tee times a few months in advance. By the way, did anyone hear about the Mets signing that guy Brian Bruney?