Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia during a spring training workout at...

Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia during a spring training workout at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Monday Feb 10, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Call it the Attack of the Chicken Wings.

In an attempt to figure out why he had a bloated 5.70 ERA in 2019, Jeurys Familia looked down — at his expanded waistline.

Too much junk food. Too much pizza. And yes, too many delicious, zesty chicken wings.

So Familia pushed away the plate and picked up some new habits during the offseason. Working with a personal trainer, the Mets reliever shed about 30 pounds, going from a high of 270 during a disastrous 2019 to his current 240.

Familia was barely recognizable when he reported to spring training last month. As reliever Seth Lugo said on Saturday: “I thought he looked about 10 years younger. It was like I was seeing him in 2013 again.”

Does it really matter if a reliever, or any pitcher, is overweight? Legendary pitching coach Johnny Sain was quoted in the book “Ball Four” as saying about pitchers running to stay in shape: “You don’t run the damn ball across the plate.”

But Familia, who turned 30 last October, already feels as if the lost pounds have helped him find his touch in spring training. In two scoreless outings, he has allowed two hits, walked two and struck out one in two innings.

“To be honest, I’m actually pleasantly surprised,” a lean, shirtless Familia said through an interpreter. “The velocity is up so early in spring and just kind of how I feel throwing the pitches. It’s pretty simple: I’m used to pitching at a certain weight. So once you have a little bit more weight, it becomes a little more difficult.

“I didn’t realize how much weight I had actually gained throughout the regular season last year. I got up to 270 at one point. I’ve always played my career around 240, 245. So I wanted to get back down there. Once the season ended, I wanted to focus in on getting back to where I’ve been pretty much the rest of my career.”

Familia said the reason he gained the weight also is pretty simple.

“Just eating a lot,” he said. “Eating on the road trips. Eating pizza, chicken wings, all that type of stuff. You’re not necessarily realizing how much weight you’re gaining and then you look at yourself in the mirror and see there’s a difference.”

Familia’s struggles in 2019 were a big part of why the Mets came up short of a playoff spot. Signed to a three-year, $30 million free- agent contract to be the setup man for Edwin Diaz, Familia couldn’t throw the ball over the plate (42 walks, 1.73 WHIP in 60 innings) and eventually lost his eighth-inning role.

In 2016, when Familia set the Mets record with 51 saves, he had a 2.55 ERA and a WHIP of 1.21. He hasn’t reached that season’s heights again, but he also hadn’t been as bad as he was last year.

Now, with Dellin Betances joining what the Mets hope will be a rejuvenated Familia, a less jittery Diaz, the always dependable Lugo and solid lefty Justin Wilson, plus Robert Gsellman and Brad Brach, the bullpen could be a strength of this year’s club.

That’s the hope, anyway.

“It’s a bullpen that can win a championship,” Familia said. “Our goal is to be there at the end and have that trophy. But a bullpen with all these names doesn’t mean anything if we’re not healthy. There’s no use if it’s only two or three guys that are healthy. So as long as we’re able to stay healthy the entire year, I think we’ll be able to achieve our goals.”


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