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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Terry Collins only has himself to blame for late-game management

New York Mets manager Terry Collins, No. 10,

New York Mets manager Terry Collins, No. 10, looks on before their game at Citi Field on May 23, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

The Mets, using Terry Collins as their vehicle, flexed their new “no-timetable” policy for injury updates before Wednesday’s game against the Padres. And with the manager being aggressively vague on a number of his players, a strategy Sandy Alderson first brought up earlier this month, what came out was as illogical and confusing as you might suspect.

“No disrespect, but I’m not going to get into the injury stuff,” Collins said. “I’m not at liberty to discuss any injury situations.”

The Mets’ ongoing snafu regarding all things medical in nature prompted the team’s blackout stance. Collins was merely the messenger. But after what went down a few hours later, during a head-scratching 6-5 loss at a near-empty Citi Field, the manager only had himself to blame because a number of his explanations just didn’t make any sense. They also involved contradictory statements.

Let’s kick it off with Robert Gsellman, who returned to the rotation after a 10-day banishment to the bullpen and delivered only the fifth quality start for the Mets this month — and first by someone not named Jacob deGrom or Zack Wheeler. Gsellman limited the punchless Padres to six hits and three runs over six innings. Best of all, he threw only 84 pitches during that stretch — yet Collins still removed him.

When it happened, we assumed the manager didn’t want to push Gsellman, who had pitched a total of three innings since May 13 after his demotion to the pen. If there was a physical concern, fine. The Mets aren’t flush with reliable starters, and Gsellman is worth protecting.

But when asked after the game about the move, Collins said that wasn’t his reasoning at all. He thought it more important to pull Gsellman on a positive note — he came in with a 6.75 ERA — and let Fernando Salas take over with a clean inning rather than risk Gsellman melting down in the seventh. And need Salas anyway.

“He’d done his job,” Collins said of Gsellman.

That doesn’t fly. Every discussion about the Mets, for weeks, has involved getting more length from the rotation, primarily to ease the strain on the bullpen, and here was the perfect opportunity to do just that. Plus, Gsellman had just completed a 1-2-3 sixth, through the middle of the Padres’ order.

“I was fine,” Gsellman said. “If Terry wanted me to go out for the seventh, I could have. But he’s the manager. He makes those decisions.”

This one was regrettable. After getting two outs, Salas melted down by loading the bases on a single and two walks. Then came the doozy. Collins summoned Neil Ramirez, who had a 10.32 ERA, and the last time he faced Wil Myers — as a Giants reliever — the Padres’ lone power threat smashed a monster home run. This time, Ramirez kept him in the ballpark, by about six inches. If not for an incredibly lucky bounce off the padded orange line atop the rightfield wall, Myers would have had a grand slam. The damage was bad enough, however, as Myers’ long two-run single tied the score at 5.

Why Collins keeps going to Ramirez we’ll never understand. But on this occasion, the manager said he decided — before the game — to give Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald, two of his most trusted relievers, the night off. Again, it just didn’t add up. A few hours earlier, Collins told us that he chose to use the overworked Blevins on Tuesday, in a 9-3 Mets rout, because the lefty specialist said he needed the work after not pitching since Friday. Really? After only a 48-hour break?

Sewald pitched in Tuesday’s blowout as well, and also Sunday, in a 12-5 loss, two outings that made him unavailable for a high-leverage situation Collins desperately needed him for. We realize every day feels like do-or-die. But there’s four months left in the season, and the bullpen, at this rate, isn’t going to be functional by the All-Star break.

Fittingly, it was Josh Smoker — pencilled in to start Saturday — who served up the game-winning bomb to Hunter Renfroe. That hurt. And with this bullpen, Collins should welcome questions about the team’s medical situation. They’re less painful than explaining his late-game management.

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