ATLANTA -- The Mets are entering "fire time," as Terry Collins described it Friday, the make-or-break part of the season when development must take a back seat to performance.
That's what prompted Sandy Alderson to send Josh Edgin from Triple-A Buffalo to Turner Field for this weekend's series against the Braves. It also has the Mets considering Matt Harvey as the replacement for Dillon Gee, a move that could be made as early as next week.
With the non-waivers trade deadline coming up July 31, calling up Edgin and perhaps Harvey at a later date should help better define the Mets' needs for the stretch run -- if there is one. At this point, it's a fair assumption. They began Friday night 4½ games behind the NL East-leading Nationals and a half game off the wild-card pace, trailing the Reds and Braves.
"The next month will determine a lot," Collins said Friday afternoon. "We're going to know how we're standing when we get to Aug. 1. If we're still in the dogfight."
The Mets, with the worst bullpen ERA (4.94) in the majors, have been desperate for a second lefthanded relief option behind Tim Byrdak, and that's where Edgin comes in. He made his big-league debut with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning Friday night and struck out two lefthanded hitters, pinch hitter Juan Francisco and Michael Bourn, to get out of the jam.
In the sixth, Edgin got the first two outs, including a strikeout of Jason Heyward, but then Chipper Jones homered to left-center on a 3-and-2 pitch to give the Braves a 6-4 lead. Then Freddie Freeman doubled into the rightfield corner on the next pitch, and Edgin was relieved by Ramon Ramirez, who gave up an RBI single to Dan Uggla.
Edgin first appeared on Collins' radar during spring training -- after never pitching above Class A St. Lucie.
"I really just took a chance and ran with it," Edgin said. "I'm a 30th-round pick, I mean, I've got to do what I can do, right? I think I opened some eyes then."
Edgin, 25, was bumped up to Buffalo after only six appearances for Double-A Binghamton. He had a 3.89 ERA for the Bisons with 40 strikeouts and 18 walks in 37 innings. Like Harvey, there is a question just how ready Edgin is for the jump, but Collins plans to use him immediately in crucial spots.
"Damn right," Collins said. "That's why he's here. Guess what? It's middle of July. It's fire time."
The Mets are relying on two things to help Edgin navigate this new assignment. One is a 96-mph fastball. The other is a mental toughness forged on the high school wrestling mats of Pennsylvania, where Edgin was among the elites in the 275-pound division, even though he was only 235.
Edgin said his title shot ended when he lost in the state semifinals to Justin Wren, who now goes by the colorful moniker of "The Viking" in his post-grad career as a UFC fighter. In discussing those days, Edgin drew some parallels between that sport and his current role in the Mets' bullpen.
Who knows? If Edgin performs well during the second half and the Mets succeed in this playoff push, that could turn out to be a lucky number.