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Mets bolster bullpen by adding second lefty Hampson

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acquired four new

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acquired four new players while at the winter meetings, a centerfielder and three relievers. (undated file photo) Credit: Jim McIsaac

CHICAGO -- Not too long after Robinson Cano's eighth-inning home run off Miguel Batista cleared the centerfield wall at Citi Field on Sunday night, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made Terry Collins a promise.

"Sandy came to me and told me, 'We're going to get you the best lefty we can find you,' " Collins said. "I just said, 'Do whatever you've got to do.' "

The 6-5 loss to the Yankees spurred Alderson to call up lefthander Justin Hampson from Triple-A Buffalo and designate outfielder Vinny Rottino for assignment. Hampson was in the Mets' bullpen Monday night for the opener of a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Hampson, 32, who pitched in 79 major-league games for Colorado and San Diego from 2006-08, also appeared in four games for the Long Island Ducks in 2010. His big-league record is 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA. He was 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA and two saves with Buffalo.

The addition of Hampson was made necessary because of the bind in which Collins found himself Sunday. The Mets had rallied to tie the score at 5 when Collins decided to use the righthanded Batista for a second inning and save Tim Byrdak -- his only lefthander in the bullpen -- for a later situation.

But the lefthanded-hitting Cano's blast spoiled that strategy and helped the Yankees take two of three in the weekend series.

"We sat there [Sunday] night trying to figure out where we wanted to be late in the game," Collins said. "Because of our situation out of the bullpen, I didn't want to burn two or three guys in one inning."

Collins faced some criticism for saving Byrdak, but it's not anything he hadn't already thought about himself.

"That's all right," he said. "That's part of the game. That's part of the business. That's part of this job . . . That's one of the parts of the game that everybody has an opinion on. And they're certainly allowed to have it. But that wasn't just a stab in the dark. There was some planning involved."

But in the end, "It came back to bite us in the butt," Collins said.

So enter Hampson. His role could be important because the Mets are without injured closer Frank Francisco and are not sure if they can count on Ramon Ramirez, who was activated from the disabled list Sunday. Ramirez, whom the Mets obtained from the Giants, was supposed to be a righthander who can get lefties out. That hasn't happened yet.

The Mets went into Monday night's game with a 39-34 record despite a bullpen that has been a problem all season. They just finished a stretch of 25 games against some of the top teams in baseball. They went 12-13, which Collins said he was happy about.

"We're a little frustrated we weren't better," he said. "We let three or four of those games get away. We didn't win them, but we came out in better shape than a lot of people thought we were going to do. And we're happy with that.

"Right now, we've got to focus on the job at hand, and that's not to have a letdown. I don't want a letdown right now. We are where we are and I'm very happy with it. I'm very happy with the way we've played. We are where we are because of the way we've prepared. We aren't going to let [Sunday's] game or the chicken or anything else stand in the way of getting ready to play this next series."

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