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Brad Hand hopes to turn things around with Mets

Brad Hand of the Nationals pithes in the

Brad Hand of the Nationals pithes in the ninth inning against the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 25 in Baltimore. Credit: Getty Images/Greg Fiume

WASHINGTON — Brad Hand’s weird month took another weird turn Friday afternoon, when he stepped onto the field at Nationals Park in his new Mets gear and said hello to his recent Nationals teammates — the people with whom he played most of this season and already did the hugs-and-handshakes reunion thing when he was in town with the Blue Jays in mid-August.

Such are these whirlwind weeks for Hand, a lefthander reliever claimed by the Mets off waivers from Toronto on Thursday.

"It’s been a crazy month for sure," said Hand, who officially joined his newest team Friday. "But I’m happy to be here."

The Blue Jays designated Hand for assignment because he pitched poorly, posting an 8.22 ERA in 10 appearances.

But his problems have gone on longer than that. Since the All-Star break, with the Nats and Jays, he has an 8.79 ERA in 17 games.

That is a steep dropoff from the first half, when he had a 2.43 ERA and 19 saves in 21 chances — including 3-for-3, plus a win, against the Mets.

"Obviously, it hasn’t been great," Hand said of his recent work. "I’ve had outings where I felt good and then outings where it just wasn’t clicking or stuff wasn’t right . . . Health-wise, everything feels good, everything feels right. I just haven’t been able to get into a groove and get things rolling. Hopefully I’ll be able to get that thing going here."

Manager Luis Rojas said the Mets hadn’t solved Hand’s problems yet but was confident the pitching coaches and pitching analysts would help.

"We’re not looking at the struggles as much as knowing the value that he has to help us moving forward," Rojas said. "For us, it’s a luxury that he’s here and he can pitch in an inning other than the ninth, being another weapon as a lefty like [Aaron Loup] has been."

His recent struggles aside, adding Hand is a low-cost, potentially-high-return move for the Mets. From 2016, the year he became a full-time reliever, through 2020, Hand was one of the most effective and reliable relievers in baseball with San Diego and Cleveland, posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.07 WHIP and being selected as an All-Star three times.

Hand believes he still is capable of being that version of himself.

"I feel like I’m still the same guy. My body feels great. Everything feels good," he said. "The results haven’t necessarily been there. I’ve been working hard and trying to get better every day. That’s what you do as an athlete and as a competitor. So just trying to get better and hopefully things will turn around."

That track record was enough for the Mets to pursue him seriously last offseason. He wound up deciding on a one-year, $10.5 million offer from Washington, which Hand described Friday as "a better fit for me at the time."

"It was between the Nats and here," he said. "It was a close one."

Now he ends up with the Mets anyway — at the start of a five-game series against the Nationals, at that. Washington’s starting catcher Friday was Riley Adams, the player they got for Hand from the Blue Jays on July 29, a day before the trade deadline.

The Mets have a rather full late-inning situation, with closer Edwin Diaz assisted by Loup, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia and others. They hope Hand can be part of that bridge, too.

"He’s going to help us a lot," Rojas said. "We have some lineups that are coming our way that have important lefthanders in the middle of the lineup, like [the Nationals with Juan Soto]. That’s why I think he’s going to play a big role."

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