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Seth Lugo on Mets' bullpen: 'We can be dominating'

New York Mets relief pitcher Seth Lugo delivers

New York Mets relief pitcher Seth Lugo delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fifth inning of Game One of an MLB doubleheader at Citi Field on Monday, July 9, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets’ late-inning studs, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, aren’t in camp yet, choosing to work out on their own before reporting by Tuesday.

The motley crew of as many as a dozen relievers competing for two or three jobs toward the bottom of the major-league depth chart, conversely, has arrived. But who will end up on the Opening Day roster is anybody’s guess.

And the guys in the middle? The arms whose success or failure in 2019 will have a significant effect on the bullpen as a whole? Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Justin Wilson are here — and open about their great expectations for themselves and their peers.

“We can be dominating,” Lugo said of the Mets’ bullpen. “We got some really good pieces and a bunch of different types of pitchers. I’m excited to see what we got.”

Added Wilson: “It’s going to be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of power coming out of the back end.”

Wilson is the newest of the bunch, just signed to a two-year, $10-million contract. The Mets view the lefthander as someone who can handle an entire inning, not just lefthanded batters. They also were drawn to his durability — at least 65 appearances in each of the past five seasons — including the fact that he held up physically in the postseason (in limited chances, six games over five years).

A Yankee in 2015, Wilson said he received interest from other teams but joined the Mets because he wanted to play for a contender. Consider him sold on general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s vision and offseason moves.

“What it really came down to is the additions Brodie has made and the ownership and how I felt about them wanting to win,” Wilson said.

Gsellman does not have the track record of Wilson. A full-time reliever last year for the first time, Gsellman received plaudits for handling that transition but struggled for stretches, including a 4.96 ERA from June 1 through the end of the season.

Manager Mickey Callaway leaned on Gsellman heavily, especially in the first half of the season. After throwing 48 1⁄3 innings from April to June, Gsellman totaled 31 2⁄3 from July to September.

As the Mets’ bullpen struggled as a unit — its 4.96 ERA was third-worst in the majors — Gsellman found himself pitching late in games late in the season. This year, he isn’t worried about which inning he gets.

“My role doesn’t really matter. We signed the best closer in baseball,” he said, referring to Diaz. “We’re going to be really good depth-wise, and with Justin Wilson too, I’m just really excited to get going and learn from those guys. It’s going to be a great year.”

And then there is Lugo, who had a breakout 2018 as a utility pitcher of sorts — five starts and 49 relief appearances, including three saves. He had a 2.66 ERA and 1.08 WHIP across 101 1⁄3 innings.

He did all that with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament — an injury that requires Tommy John surgery for some pitchers — and noted that he hasn’t needed an MRI on his right elbow since March 2017, when he received the initial diagnosis.

“I just kind of go by feel,” Lugo said. “It felt better this offseason than it did last offseason. That’s a big boost of confidence right there.”

Lugo was consistent in expressing his preference to be a starter last season, but he always noted he was willing to do what the team needed. Now he seems resigned to life as a reliever.

“At this point, especially with the year I had last year, just pitching is the preference. So whatever,” Lugo said. “The success I had last year was fun. I had some success starting, had some success relieving, so I couldn’t tell you I had more fun doing one or the other. I just enjoyed being out there. Wherever they need me. However we can win.”


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