Bullpen: 2013 Version

By Rich Sparago

It’s no secret to Mets fans that the bullpen was the team’s Achilles heel in 2012. Sandy Alderson has brought in many new faces to try to correct the issue. In today’s game against the Astros, Terry Collins sent some relatively new faces from the bullpen to the mound, along with one familiar face in a new role.

Robert Carson was the first reliever in the game today, taking over for Jeremy Hefner. Carson did not fare well, as he surrendered a towering, opposite-field home run to Carlos Pena. The Mets would like to see Carson harness his abundant talent this season, so they’ll have another option out of the bullpen to get key outs against left-handed hitters. There’s no shortage of such hitters in the division, with names like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Bryce Harper, to name just a few. However, because of his uneven spring (Carson has a spring ERA of 7.50), it’s starting to seem likely that Carson will start the season in Las Vegas.

Collin McHugh also gave up a run in one inning of work today. McHugh had one incredible start on August 23rd of last season against Colorado, but has not distinguished himself since. McHugh’s primary pitch is a sweeping curve, that can have right-handed hitters chasing it, and left-handed hitters jammed by it. Even with the excellent curve, McHugh’s ERA this spring is a bloated 9.54. McHugh could be a the long-man/spot starter on the team, but his difficult spring may lead him to Las Vegas to start the season.

One of the new acquisitions, Scott Atchison, also pitched today. Scott gave up 2 runs on 2 hits in one inning. Atchison brings veteran experience to the Mets’ relief corps, and could be called upon to get important outs against right-handed hitters this season. Atchison has pitched to a 4.15 ERA this spring. He gives the Mets another option in the middle innings, along with LaTroy Hawkins, and possibly Elvin Ramirez.

A familiar face, Bobby Parnell, closed the game today for the Mets, allowing a run on 2 hits. Of all the relievers, no one has more pressure on his shoulders than Parnell. With the injury to Frank Francisco, Parnell will assume the closer role, a role with which he has struggled in previous seasons. When you watch Parnell, you see a pitcher who has no reason not to succeed. Bobby throws in the triple digits, and has added a knuckle-curve that he learned from Jason Isringhausen. Parnell stands to benefit from the league and division savvy that newly-acquired John Buck brings to the Mets, as it seems that Parnell has the tools to close, but has had difficulty with using those tools to his advantage.

Sandy Alderson is applying the same formula to the 2013 bullpen that he tried in 2012. Import new faces, some from other clubs (such as Brandon Lyon, who also pitched today), and some younger pitchers from within the system (such as Darin Gorski, who threw a scoreless inning today). Last year’s results were not good. However, one thing on Alderson’s side is the unpredictable nature of bullpens. Last year’s failure does not predict the same for this year. With any luck, the mix for this year will be more successful. There certainly are some exciting people to watch (such as Josh Edgin). Whether or not the current collection of youth and experience gels into a strong bullpen remains to be seen, but one thing is unmistakable. Late-inning losses are tough. They’re tough on the players, and excruciating for the fans. We saw too many of those losses in 2012.

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