On Saturday, Mickey Callaway received something of a rarity during his tenure -- criticism -- after the bullpen spoiled yet another fantastic Jacob deGrom start.
With the Mets sitting atop the NL East at 14-6, there hasn’t been too much to dwell on. But with no happy ending on Saturday, it started some fans' wheels spinning
Callaway called upon Jeurys Familia in the eighth inning for a four-out save. Familia left the tying run stranded on third, but folded in the ninth for his second blown save of the week. This season, Familia has already been brought in during the eighth three times, and made 12 appearances in total through 20 games.
Therein lies my lone issue with Callaway thus far. For whatever reason, it has seemingly gone overlooked that Familia is coming off an injury-shortened season. Just like the starters, Familia is vital to the Mets’ success. He'll be needed to stay fresh for the duration of the year. There’s no sense in maxing out Familia in April.
In fairness to Callaway, he's been short-staffed in the pen. When healthy, Anthony Swarzak is expected to serve as one of the team's set-up men. His absence has clearly caused Callaway to alter his script.
We’ve seen a variety of arms used in a variety of ways to bridge the gap to Familia. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have become effective bullpens options, but both are relatviely new to working on short rest. A.J. Ramos has been performing a Jekyll and Hyde act, with more bad than good of late. Jerry Blevins has pitched surprising poorly. Thus, causing Callaway’s dilemma: Does he go with the emerging hot hands or the traditional route of experience in big spots?
When pressed in those moments, Callaway has fallen back on Familia. But that may not be a formula that can be sustained. At some point, Mickey needs to trust someone else to get a big out late in the game.
Despite his two missteps this week, Familia has looked good early on, and appears well on his way to another strong season. Both of his this week's blown saves occurred in games he entered in the eighth this year, another reason Callaway should reconsider this thinking.
Swarzak’s return, whenever that is, will certainly help alleviate some pressure off using Familia early. For now, it’s time for Callaway to go with a trial by fire approach for Gsellman and Lugo, and cherry pick some spots to get Ramos and Blevins on the right track. Until then, Ricky Bones needs to start hanging up the bullpen phone when he hears the words “Get Familia up” in the eighth.
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