Three weeks, three closers.
That’s how the 2014 season has started for the Mets, who officially replaced the struggling Jose Valverde with veteran Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth will be the latest to attempt filling in for the injured Bobby Parnell.
“I’m not going to approach it any different,” said Farnsworth, whose diminished velocity was one of the reasons he didn’t make the team out of camp.
Farnsworth was released near the end of spring training so the Mets could avoid paying him a contractually-required $100,000 bonus. He had been free to sign elsewhere but returned to the Mets. Now, if they have the lead when the ninth inning rolls around, Farnsworth be on Terry Collins’ speed dial.
“We’re all a team here,” said Farnsworth, who has a 1.23 ERA in eight appearances.. “Everybody’s got to contribute.”
Valverde contributed in the beginning. But a string of rough outings moved him closer to his ouster as closer. The final straw came in the ninth inning against the Braves on Saturday night, when Collins turned to Valverde to hold the line with the Mets trailing 4-3.
Instead, Valverde allowed a mammoth three-run home run to Justin Upton to up the Braves’ lead to 7-3. The homer stung even more in the bottom of the ninth, when the Mets rallied for two runs, which would have been enough to take the lead had Valverde kept the Braves off the scoreboard.
“If I don’t do my job, somebody else has to do it,” said Valverde, who was informed of the switch on Sunday morning.
Valverde’s ERA climbed to 5.40 in 8 1/3 innings. Though he has two saves in three chances, he has allowed four homers in his last three appearances and has faltered in high-leverage situations.
The Mets hoped to avoid the closer’s carousel this season, when they looked to Parnell to reprise his role as closer after a neck injury sidelined him last year.
Instead, after blowing the save on opening day, Parnell went down with an elbow injury that required season-ending surgery.
Later in the season, the Mets plan to dip into their store of minor-league pitching prospects to bolster holes in the bullpen. But until then, they intend to lean on the players they already have on the roster.
Citing concerns this offseason about his age and durability, the Mets opted against re-signing 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who had stepped in as Parnell’s replacement. Hawkins is 5-for-5 in save chances for the Rockies.