Feb 26, 2013; Jupiter, FL, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia (32) throws in the first inning during a spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What Are Sandy Alderson's Remaining Organizational Options For Improving The Bullpen?

Mets minds think alike.  While I was putting this piece together, fellow Rising Apple staff writer Rich Sparago published his observations regarding the Mets bullpen.  Merely adding to the continuing conversation, I offer you my summary of in-house options Sandy Alderson and the Mets can potentially call on later this season.

To date, the largest criticisms levied against Sanday Alderson revolve around his two seasons spent renovating the bullpen.  As we know, last year’s relief corp was a collective failure.  So in preparation for this season, the GM recruited a host of new free agent nomads to join forces with the returning Mets pitchers.  Plan A involved starting the season with both Frank Francisco and Bobby Parnell leading the pack, with the hope Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia would join them.  Instead, Bobby Parnell led a bullpen manned by LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Rice, Scott Atchison, Brandon Lyon, Greg Burke, Josh Edgin, and swing man (let’s include him) Aaron Laffey into April.  Before breaking camp, at least there was something to be said for Sandy Alderson’s apparent collection of depth – or so we thought.

Aaron Laffey’s stay with the organization was brief.  Sandy Alderson DFA’d Laffey in short time, and once exposed to waivers, he was claimed by Toronto.  Then of course, injuries always seem to factor into everything.  As we know, Frank Francisco never broke north with the team.  Recovering from off-season elbow surgery has been problematic for him.   This past Sunday, he finally climbed the mound again for the first time since April 20th.  On Sunday, he pitched one inning for the St. Lucie Mets and stuck out two batters.  Meanwhile, Jenrry Mejia is yet to throw a pitch in the regular season. He has been out with elbow inflammation, and may be back later this month.

Bobby Parnell is currently enjoying the most success he’s had in three chances at being the team’s primary closer.  Next in, Scott Rice has a low 1.80 ERA, but is battling control issues.  So far, the ancient LaTroy Hawkins has put in respectable work with a 2.77 ERA.  While Scott Atchison and Brandon Lyon have been a mixed bag of goods.  Atchison has a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 innings, with six walks and four strikeouts.  Brandon Lyon sports a lofty 4.38 ERA in 12.1 innings, but has only walked two batters and struck out ten.

It is obvious at this point of the 2013 regular season however, Sandy Alderson has already reverted to Plan B, which was tapping into Las Vegas for reinforcements and upgrades.  Greg Burke and Josh Edgin encountered early troubles which prompted Alderson to send Edgin to AA-Binghamton instead of Las Vegas, due in part over concerns regarding affects the Pacific Coast League has on pitchers.  Alderson had no such reservations with Burke however, who was sent to Vegas.  In their place, Alderson called up Jeurys Famila and Robert Carson.  In Familia’s case, he made one appearance for the Mets on April 4th, then was sent to Las Vegas where he made four more appearances before being recalled to Flushing again.  Robert Carson started out well in eight appearances with Las Vegas to earn a call-up, but has yet to come around for the big club.

Battling to maintain a .500 record, Las Vegas is not without their problems.  The 51′s bullpen is struggling mightily, partly because of the situation in Flushing.  Remaining relievers Dylan Owen, Greg Peavey, Sean Henn, and Justin Hampson all currently have more problems than a math book.  So Sandy Alderson can’t look there for much more help.  But depending how forgiving your personal scouting is, there are two relief pitchers left in Las Vegas who can potentially help the Mets if needed.  Gonzalez Germen, 25, has pitched in twelve games and 18.2 innings this season.  His ERA is up at 5.30, on nineteen hits, and eleven runs allowed.  He walked six, but has twenty-two strikeouts.  Armando Rodriguez, 25, has twelve appearances with 13.1 innings pitched.  He, like Germen, is a power pitcher, with nineteen strikeouts so far.  Otherwise, it is hard to overlook a similar 5.40 ERA, on fifteen hits, eight runs and eight walks allowed.  Minus one start for each pitcher in Buffalo last season, both Germen and Rodriguez are in their first seasons at AAA.  Perhaps by mid-summer they will have improved, and demonstrated enough proficiency to warrant a consideration.

At some point, however, odds say Sandy Alderson will  have to implement a Plan C.  On that note, there are some very interesting bullpen prospects gaining attention in AA-Binghamton, led by Jeff Walters and Jack Leathersich.  Walters, 25, currently has a 0.86 ERA after 13.1 innings.  He has surrendered twelve hits, issued two walks, and struck out twelve so far.  In eleven appearances, he leads Binghamton with eight saves.  In eleven appearances, Jack Leathersich, 22, has been nothing short of ridiculous.  After fifteen innings pitched, he has allowed ten hits, and struck out a whopping twenty-seven batters, but has also walked an unsettling eleven.

After making over one hundred starts in his minor league career, Mark Cohoon was moved into the bullpen this season.  In 15.1 innings, he has a 2.93 ERA.  He has seventeen strikeouts, while only walking four, but has allowed twenty-three hits.  John Church, 26, has a 2.40 ERA in fifteen innings, allowing fourteen hits, five walks, and striking out eighteen batters.  And lastly, Chase Huchingson, 24, has 16.2 innings pitched in twelve appearances.  He has allowed twenty-one hits, offset however by just four walks, and fifteen strikeouts.

Those are the remaining organizational options available for potentially bolstering the Mets’ bullpen this season.  However, I should stress – later in the season.  When the time actually comes to implement an aforementioned Plan C, Sandy Alderson may very well have quality pitchers to turn to.  Some may not be pitching all that impressively at the moment, and some perhaps need more experience at AA, but there is respectable work being conducted down below.  In the next two months, perhaps these pitchers can build better cases for themselves until the Mets actually do come calling.

By the dog days of summer, it is not a stretch to envision a bullpen featuring Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco again, complemented by Rice, Familia, and Mejia.  I would recall Josh Edgin, to join LaTroy Hawkins from the left side, and maybe add Jack Leathersich and John Church.  Keep Robert Carson and Brandon Lyon on stand-by.  Do you have a preferred combination?

The point is, at least the Mets have a few more choices to operate with.  For now, I cling to the belief the Mets will have a stronger second half once the potential promotions of Zack Wheeler and other players takes place.  I believe a stronger bullpen will no doubt contribute to that end, and that the Mets potentially have the in-house arms to help get things turned in a more positive direction.


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Tags: Bobby Parnell Frank Francisco New York Mets New York Mets Bullpen Rising Apple Sandy Alderson

  • Tommy2cat

    Thanks for the thorough analysis, Mike. I offer a slightly different paradigm, an approach utilized by the Cardinals organization.

    The Cardinals have a history of moving their best arms – starters and relievers – to the major leagues and start them in the bullpen where they can receive instruction at the major league level. Over time, the pitchers are groomed from the bullpen where some of them stay, and others jump to the rotation. But its always about the best arms at the major league level.

    I support the Cardinal’s view. Pitchers can handle a variety of roles, whether it’s Nolan Ryan in the ’69 playoffs and World Series, or Sid Fernandez or Adam Wainwright in their respective Game 7′s. These are prominent instances where a starter came into a game as a reliever to shut down an opponent in it’s tracks.

    While the above examples clearly are isolated instances in must-win situations, the Cardinals actually implement this strategy into their pitcher development – bringing their best arms into the major league fold, providing them instruction at the major league level, bringing them along gradually, where some stay with the relief corps and others move to the rotation.

    In this sense, pitchers such as Wheeler, Montero, Syndergaard, Tapia & Mateo can join in the conversation with Familia, Mejia, Mazzoni, Leathersich, Carson & Co. when discussing bullpen options. Some consider it sacrilege and argue that it will confuse the pitcher and/or expose him to an injury.

    Hogwash, I say. Guys can get their regular reps in bullpen side sessions and work on their secondary pitches and integrate them in non-critical situations at the major league level, where everything counts. Some will move quickly to the rotation, such as Wheeler, Montero & Syndergaard, while others may thrive in late-inning situations and relish the opportunity. Familia and Mejia appear to be suited to that role. The process will sort the pitchers out by itself.

    Many very good arms make for lighter lifting.

    • http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.blogspot.com/ MikeLecolant.BTB

      Thanks for the kind words Tommy, and for a great, fresh contribution to the conversation. The Cards have long been one of the best run, and innovative clubs in baseball. Their plan you describe is an old school approach that I have a tremendous appreciation for. Having Dave Duncan in their stable I’m sure helped as well. It is my hope Alderson, Ricciardi, and DePodesta establish that kind of long term continuity, structure and philosophical adherence here….the way it once was in Flushing. On a side note, I remember when Ron Guidry volunteered for closer duty after Goose Gossage hurt his arm in a fight. Ron said he could help the Yanks more, coming out of the bullpen versus starting every fifth day – and did. Mariano Rivera was a failed starter before turning into the greatest closer of our time. I too always felt the bullpen is a place to grow pitchers, not exile them.