Better Bullpen Options In Buffalo?


Last night’s game was the same song, different verse for the Mets.  What made last night’s loss a little different was that instead of the bullpen blowing a one or two run lead, the relievers this time squandered what should’ve been a comfortable four run advantage.  The Mets had all the momentum on their side after a five run top of the eighth, capped off by a monstrous Ronny Paulino homer, and could’ve ensured themselves a series victory against one of the better teams in the National League.  Instead, Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen combined to allow four runs in the eighth, and Dale Thayer coughed up the winning run in the ninth on a game winning hit by Nyjer Morgan.  Good grief.

As far as the decision making by Terry Collins goes, it’s hard to fault the manager.  Beato threw only eight pitches in the series opener and looked sharp, but clearly didn’t have it today.  With Prince Fielder coming up, Izzy had held lefties to a .194 average entering last night’s game, and with Tim Byrdak already used (also ineffectively since he walked Fielder earlier in the game), Isringhausen was the best option.  Of course, Collins could’ve used Francisco Rodriguez for the five out save since he threw only thirteen pitches the night before or even just to get out of the eighth inning alive and then hand the ball to someone else in the ninth after the big boys had been retired, but I’ve accepted at this point that managers don’t think that way.

Unlike the offense, which should be buoyed by the eventual returns of Ike Davis and David Wright and possible promotion of Lucas Duda, and the rotation, which should see Johan Santana later in the year, there isn’t a stud coming back to bolster the bullpen.  Yes, Taylor Buchholz is on the disabled list, but he was struggling just like everybody else, having allowed six earned runs on nine hits, including two home runs, in his last six and one-third innings before landing on the shelf.  So without going out and acquiring someone (which if the Mets are in the race at the trading deadline, might be a wise move), are there any other legitimate internal options?  I’d say there are three players the Mets could consider if they wanted to make a move.

The first is D.J. Carrasco.  D.J. struggled with the big league club earlier this season (10.2 IP, 7 ER, 6 BB, 6 K) but has turned it around nicely in the Buffalo rotation (and one reliever appearance).  In 46.2 innings, he’s pitched to a 3.47 ERA and 1.350 WHIP with a 37:17 K:BB.  In his last two starts, he’s gone 15.2 innings, surrendering just one run on six hits with fifteen punch-outs.  The problem is with Carrasco is that it seems like the Mets want to keep him in the rotation as a contingency plan in case one of their starters gets hurt, so it seems unlikely he will be called up to the bullpen.  Still, the option is there.

Another choice is right hander John Lujan, a twenty-seven year old originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2004.  Lujan’s career minor league ERA and WHIP of 3.80 and 1.407 aren’t anything spectacular, but he’s pitched well this season.  In 28.1 innings, Lujan has yielded nine earned runs on 27 hits and seven walks while fanning 30, making for a very solid K/BB of 4.29 and K/9 of 9.5.  The only thing he lacks is major league experience, but given how the bullpen has performed recently, that might not be a bad thing.

Finally, there is southpaw Justin Hampson.  The thirty-one year old had a cup of coffee with the Colorado Rockies in 2006, and spent parts of ’07 and ’08 with the San Diego Padres.  The sum of his major league experience amounts to a 3.38 ERA and 1.344 WHIP in 96 innings, with only 62 strikeouts against 31 walks.  Hampson, however, is enjoying a fine season at Buffalo.  In 26.2 innings, he’s allowed just six earned runs on twenty hits and six walks with twenty-seven strikeouts, making for a K/BB of 4.50 and K/9 of 9.1.  He’s held lefties an opposing average of .171 and righties to .217.  Hampson has some major league experience and could provide Collins with another lefty in the bullpen, making him a good choice if the Mets decide to shakeup the relieving corps.

Of course if there will be a shakeup is yet to be determined.  K-Rod and Izzy are locks to stay, despite the fact that it doesn’t look like Izzy should pitch on back to back days, Beato can’t be sent to the minors without first being offered back to the Baltimore Orioles due to his Rule 5 status, and the team needs Byrdak to have a lefty available.  That leaves Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta and Thayer, three righties who throw hard but aren’t really anything special.  At this point, with Buchholz eligible to come off the disabled list in a week (we’ll see if he does), I’m willing to bet Thayer will be the odd man out.  However, if Parnell and Acosta struggle, the Mets do appear to have a few more options available in the minors.