If Vegas is stacked, perhaps Mets could find an ace reliever in deck

Mets pitcher Rafael Montero throws live batting practice

Mets pitcher Rafael Montero throws live batting practice during spring training Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)

Anthony Rieber

Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998

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When it comes to adding much-needed young power arms to the Mets' bullpen, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. For the next two months.

In the wake of closer Bobby Parnell's partially torn elbow ligament, general manager Sandy Alderson Wednesday promoted veteran Kyle Farnsworth from Triple-A Las Vegas instead of one of the Mets' hard-throwing youngsters.

It's a typically conservative strategy for Alderson, who won't rush a pitcher to the majors before his time. That it helps delay the arbitration clock of those pitchers is a bonus to boot for the money-conscious Mets.

"The way it stands now, we want to see how things shake out with the bullpen over the next several weeks," Alderson said before the Mets fell to 0-2 with a 5-1 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field. "The nice thing is that No. 1, we have some very good arms at Las Vegas, some of whom did pitch a little bit in relief in spring training. We expect that over the course of the next two months, some of the starters there, with maybe one or two exceptions, will pitch out of the pen occasionally just to get used to it."

Alderson's two-month, reliever-for-a-day plan will likely include Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Logan Verrett.

It "probably" does not include Noah Syndergaard, Alderson said. We'll upgrade that to "definitely" as the Mets are not going to mess with their No. 1 pitching prospect.

The plan makes sense if you put the development of the neophytes ahead of the immediate needs of the big-league club.

It doesn't make sense if your goal is to win 90 games, though, and your bullpen was already thin before Parnell's injury.

Jose Valverde moves up to interim closer, a role he could keep all season if Parnell requires Tommy John surgery. Valverde is 36. Farnsworth is 37.

So when the bullpen door swings open for the next month or so, the only youngster who will emerge is Jeurys Familia. The Mets could at least commit to handing the 22-year-old the eighth inning, but manager Terry Collins isn't ready to do that.

What else can the Mets do? How about not having gone into the season with the bullpen a major question mark for the fourth straight year. That's the whole Alderson era, by the way.

The Mets were counting on Parnell's return from neck surgery and Vic Black stepping up after a promising September. They made a play for free agent Grant Balfour. They added Valverde and Farnsworth on minor-league deals.

The front office should have done more. The Rays seem to find good, cheap relievers. The Yankees, too. The Cardinals promote their young fireballers for relief work without worry. The Red Sox won the World Series last season with their third choice of closer.

Jenrry Mejia has been a reliever, but the Mets don't want to go there again. Neither does Mejia. But he's got the kind of arm that could dominate out of the pen and the kind of durability issues that make it hard to believe in him as a rotation member.

The bullpen allowed five runs on Monday and two more last night (one by Farnsworth) for an 11.82 ERA. Meanwhile, Washington relievers last night threw three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. The Mets have struck out 31 times in 19 innings.

Is it a good plan to have substandard arms in Flushing while Vegas is flush with studs? It is if you're a Las Vegas 51s fan. Maybe not so much if you're a Mets fan. Or the manager who has a 90-win challenge from the general manager hanging over his head.

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