Among the Mets’ strengths — perhaps an unexpected one — amid this underwhelming season has been their bullpen. But as the team has tanked in recent weeks, falling to the very fringes of postseason contention, the relievers have played a significant role.
Mets bullpen arms had a 4.95 ERA in September, heading into the team’s series finale against the Phillies on Sunday. That ranked 23rd in the majors.
Entering the month, the Mets ranked 10th with a 3.89 reliever ERA.
Manager Luis Rojas said less reliable starting pitching — leading to a greater workload for the bullpen — and so many tight games have taken a toll.
"It causes a lot of stress," he said. "Some guys have even asked for an extra day to recover or come back and be available for us to pitch out of the ‘pen. It does a lot. Those guys are leaving their arms out there. You’ve got to respect the work that they put in and their willingness to stay up, being ready to pitch the nights that they can pitch."
The Mets are 28-32 in one-run games. That represented 40% of their games.
The frequent late-and-close dynamic has led to a funky-looking pitcher wins leaderboard for the Mets.
Jeurys Familia and Marcus Stroman are tied for the team lead with nine. Behind them is a three-way tie with seven wins (Trevor May, Taijuan Walker, Jacob deGrom) and then Edwin Diaz and Aaron Loup with five apiece.
Daily deGrom (and Syndergaard)
Noah Syndergaard’s second live batting practice session — against lefthanded hitter Luis Guillorme and righthanded hitter Jose Peraza — went well, Rojas said.
He tossed 15-20 pitches, all fastballs and changeups, still no breaking balls, with fastball velocity in the low- and mid-90s.
Rojas said the Mets might activate Syndergaard this week without a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, which would be highly unusual for a Tommy John patient. He characterized that decision as "part of the conversation that we need to have that we haven’t had yet."
Another Mets official said Saturday that the plan is a rehab assignment, with multiple appearances likely.
Jacob deGrom, meanwhile, is scheduled to throw his first full-fledged bullpen session in the coming days, Rojas said. That will be his first one of those since July. The Mets will have to take shortcuts with his rehab from a sprained right elbow if he is to pitch in the majors within the next two weeks.
Fair play … and pay
Players with the Mets’ High-A affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, and their opponents, the Phillies’ Jersey Shore club, wore wristbands with the hashtag "#FairBall," a demand for higher wages. That show of solidarity Saturday was orchestrated by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, an organization that fights for better conditions for thousands of professional ballplayers at those levels who do not have a union.
"Those guys standing for something that they believe, you’ve got to respect that. If there’s going to be an upgrade there, I’ll be one of the guys to say, ‘Yeah, that would be great,’" Rojas said. "These are guys that are choosing baseball as their career, and immediately they want some impact when it comes down to their economic choice. I’ll be someone that will support that if they’re voicing it. Let’s see what happens. Everyone has their right to show what they want, show the gesture."
Jonathan Villar was out of the lineup for the Phillies finale, with J.D. Davis drawing the starting assignment that has been recently rare, but Rojas said it has nothing to do with his apparent pain Saturday night.
In grounding out in the seventh inning, Villar was jammed, hurting his thumb, so much so that he didn’t leave the batter’s box and crunched down near the plate as an athletic trainer checked on him.
The president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, threw out the ceremonial first pitch . . . Rojas on the atmosphere in the clubhouse: "The guys are in a really, really good mood, just knowing what we need to do."
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