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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Edwin Diaz's collapse writes latest chapter in Mets' bullpen woes

Edwin Diaz of the Mets walks to the

Edwin Diaz of the Mets walks to the dugout after the ninth inning against the Reds at Citi Field on Wednesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Edwin Diaz, the supposedly elite closer, can’t pitch more than one inning and now evidently can’t be trusted in tie games.

Jeurys Familia, the $30-million set-up guy, is out indefinitely after Wednesday’s flare-up of a Bennett lesion, which the Mets told us was a pre-existing bone spur.

Otherwise, Justin Wilson is working his way back from a sore elbow (insert red flag here) and Mickey Callaway is reluctant to put too much on the shoulders of Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman, due to their former lives as starting pitchers.

That’s what we know about the Mets’ bullpen And based on the past 72 hours or so, the more we learn, the worse things seem to get.

Diaz vaulted to the top of this hit list Wednesday by teeing up his second game-winning homer in three nights, something even Armando Benitez was able to avoid on a fairly consistent basis. This time, it was a hanging slider to Jose Iglesias, who pulled it over the leftfield wall to hand the Mets a 1-0 loss. In Monday’s series opener, it was a 96-mph fastball that Jesse Winker put into the rightfield seats.

On both occasions, the Mets called on Diaz to keep the tie intact, despite a history that reveals he’s combustible in such situations.

Diaz has now pitched in 36 games with the score tied, and opponents have ripped him for a .333 batting average (40-for-120) with eight homers, a 1.004 OPS and 2.36 K/BB ratio. But when he’s ahead, Diaz is superman, holding opponents to a .160 BA, a .486 OPS and a 5.70 K/BB ratio in 163 games. The sample sizes are different, of course, but the numbers are jarring. And Diaz can’t explain why. 

“I’m not really sure,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “I try to do the same thing every single time, with the same type of effectiveness and results. But I have to keep working on that I guess. My approach is the same way.”

Here’s the problem. Diaz has become such a boutique closer for the Mets, with such specific rules for usage, that they need him to be perfect when he is deployed. And with the bullpen depleted, Diaz apparently can’t be leaned on to pick up the slack. Or at least he couldn’t this week.

“Yeah, it’s rare,” Callaway said. “I’m sure it’s going to continue to be rare. But it is -- it’s a little stunning.”

Callaway put himself in a tighter jam by only using Lugo for just one out in the eighth rather than push him into the ninth and delay using Diaz. But this being Lugo’s third appearance in four days, the manager chose to err on the side of caution.

The Mets do have to worry about preserving their bullpen resources, as limited as they are, for the long run. And now they have to hope Familia’s 10-day stay on the IL will cure what was ailing him through the first month of his bumpy Mets’ homecoming.

For the Flushing conspiracy theorists out there, the Mets handling of health-related matters often plays out like an “X-Files” episode. Wednesday happened to be another one of those inexplicable occasions. 

The intrigue started with Callaway, who made it more than five minutes into his daily news conference before mentioning that Familia had been placed on the IL. And the manager only brought it up after a reporter asked a question about Familia’s cracked confidence in the wake of Tuesday night’s blown save.

“While we’re talking about Familia,” Callaway said, “he did reach out to us this morning. His shoulder was a little sore, so we had him checked out. He ended up getting an injection and he’s going to go on the DL and we’re going to replace him with Ryan O’Rourke.”

This had to be the most expedient medical-related situation the Mets have ever processed. The amount of time it took from Familia’s initial phone call to the MRI to the injured list must be a franchise record.

Familia, for whatever reason, certainly looked like he could use a break, with a 6.28 ERA and 13 walks in his first 14 innings of work this season. The Mets insisted that Wednesday’s phone call was the first they heard of Familia’s shoulder discomfort. As far as they were concerned, he was physically sound.

And like the rest of the Mets’ bullpen, we’re not sure if that was good news or bad.


 

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