Sandy Alderson remembers his mission at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The future Marine and Mets general manager was just a kid then in 1959, 11 or 12 years old, he said. His dad was stationed there, serving as a captain. And the son took on some hazardous duty.
"At one time during my youth, I was a pinsetter for a bowling alley before they got automatic pinsetters," Alderson told military personnel gathered in the bowling alley at the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn on Monday, where Alderson, Mookie Wilson, broadcaster Josh Lewin and Mr. Met made an appearance. "I'd pick them up, throw the pins in the rack and get the heck out of the way, which was not always easy to do."
These days, Alderson hopes he has put all the pins in place for his first-place team to finish off a run to the NL East title. His latest acquisition, reliever Addison Reed, and the likely addition of Steven Matz to form a six-man rotation should help. If all is well after the Ward Melville product's rehab start for Binghamton on Monday night, Alderson said Matz "probably" will join the rotation in five or six days, easing concerns over innings limits.
Matz was effective in his rehab start, pitching 51/3 shutout innings against Reading and throwing 78 pitches. He allowed one hit and two walks and struck out four.
"We're hopeful we won't have to shut anybody down; I don't think we expect to do that," Alderson said. "We may be skipping some people over the course of the month. But spreading everybody out and having at least six and even seven starters available, if [Logan] Verrett is used on a spot basis, will allow us to do that."
Matz showed what he could do during his first two big-league starts early in the summer, going 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA before suffering a partial lat muscle tear.
"We've seen the quality again in his last [rehab] start," Alderson said, "so we're comfortable if he's healthy coming out of this start."
Manager Terry Collins isn't in favor of Matz going to the bullpen if the Mets make the postseason, given his injury history, including Tommy John surgery. Alderson didn't sound high on the idea, either.
How about Noah Syndergaard to the pen, then?
"I wouldn't absolutely rule it out, but it's not something we're planning to do," Alderson said. He said those aren't issues he's currently worried about.
The here and now has Reed primarily filling the seventh-inning role in front of Tyler Clippard and closer Jeurys Familia. Reed had a 1.65 ERA in his last 13 outings with Arizona after returning from a demotion to the minors.
"Hopefully, he'll pitch for us the way he's pitched the last month or so of the season," Alderson said. "If that's the case, then he'll be a big help."
Alderson pointed to one player in particular who has helped the team take off.
"I think we've been pleased with the way the team has played over the last month and kind of trace the transformation back to bringing [Michael] Conforto up," Alderson said. " . . . He had an immediate impact, had a big game his first game, and he's continued to perform at a very high level."
The Mets hold an option for Collins to return in 2016, but Alderson said, "He understands that we're going to deal with that after the season."