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Jeurys Familia’s return on Thursday should give relief for Mets bullpen

New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia works

New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia works against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning of a spring training game Tuesday, March 28, 2017, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: AP / John Bazemore

Jeurys Familia’s return from suspension on Thursday won’t come a moment too soon for a Mets bullpen that has buckled under a heavy workload.

At the start of play on Wednesday, Mets relievers had faced 246 batters this season, tied with the Reds for the most in the National League.

Mets starters pitched into the seventh inning only three times in their first 14 games. Combined with a stretch of close games decided in the latter innings, the bullpen paid a severe toll, particularly during a taxing four-game series against the Marlins last weekend.

Manager Terry Collins called that series a “bad weekend” for a bullpen that has otherwise been “outstanding” during Familia’s 15-game suspension for violating baseball’s domestic violence policy. Still, Collins said the presence of the All-Star closer should negate some strain, even though he again raised the possibility of easing Familia into the closer’s role.

“They’ll settle down when they all start getting into the roles they’re accustomed to and hopefully we pitch better,” Collins said of a bullpen that has posted a 3.79 ERA, seventh in the National League.

Rafael Montero began play leading all NL relievers with 42 batters faced. He was joined in the top five by teammates Fernando Salas (40) and Hansel Robles (39). Familia’s return would bring more balance.

Said Collins: “All of a sudden it kind of changes a couple guys’ usage.”

Extra bases

David Wright threw for the first time in several weeks, Collins said, though he stuck with his new habit of doing so in private. “He doesn’t want a big crowd out there, he doesn’t want the focus to be on him,” Collins said. “I respect that. It’s going to be a process for him.” . . . . Ahead of his start on Thursday, Noah Syndergaard has trimmed and repaired the cracked fingernails that prompted him to leave his previous start early.

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