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Relief in all shapes and sizes for Mets

Mets reliever Jon Rauch at media day in

Mets reliever Jon Rauch at media day in spring training. (March 2, 2012) Credit: Getty

Which of us did not blink and do a double-take Wednesday night when Terry Collins purposefully strode out and removed Jon Rauch two outs the tying run on first and Hanley Ramirez coming up?

And when it was announced that Bobby Parnell was coming in, who did not have the same reaction that I did: “Why would they do that?”

It worked.

Collins later was coy when he was asked about replacing a guy with a spotless record (3-0) and earned run average (0.00) with someone whose performance has yet to match his potential. The manager first said that Rauch did not have his best stuff, then admitted that the reliever’s numbers against Ramirez were pretty scary.

The point is, the Mets' relievers held off the Marlins when it was a one-run game and they closed it out when it was a four-run game. It has not been easy for the Mets to have gone 10-8 in this early season, without a dominant offense, but the bullpen has been a big reason why the club has a winning record.

“You just give them the ball and they’re doing the job,” R.A. Dickey said.

This time, they did not even have to go to its closer, Frank Francisco. Rauch is a big part of the effort down there, and not just because he is a towering figure. An effective setup man brings order and confidence to the whole operation. I have never thought of that role the same, and have never underestimated it, since covering the 1996 postseason and seeing Mariano Rivera set up for John Wetteland.

Before the game Wednesday night, Collins said, “For the most part our bullpen has come in and attacked hitters, thrown strikes. Jon Rauch has been leading the way.”

In two innings, the four Mets relievers had a combined total of zero walks. That really helps. Of course there is no guarantee these relievers will keep up this pace, just as there is no certainty the Mets will still be above .500 by the end of next week. But it is a good start.

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