In Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Phillies, Mickey Callaway hit a speed bump in what has otherwise been a smooth road of bullpen management.
With the Mets up by a run in the sixth, Callaway opted to keep Paul Sewald in the game with two outs and two on to pitch to lefty pinch hitter Nick Williams, despite the fact that Jerry Blevins was warmed up and ready. Sewald hung a slider, and Williams crushed it into the right field bleachers to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.
Then, Mickey opted to use closer Jeurys Familia to start the eighth inning with the Mets down only one run. Familia labored through the inning. He gave up a home run to Carlos Santana, which gave the Phillies an insurance run en route to their victory.
Callaway likes to mix-and-match in his bullpen by committee approach, but he had been using Familia in a true closer’s role all year to much success. Sunday’s loss was the first time where Mickey strayed from that approach, and it turned out to be costly.
Familia’s been solid in the closer’s role this year, as he has converted 11-of-14 save opportunities and posted a 1.89 ERA. Mickey’s been able to use Jeurys in the closer role effectively because of the emergence of guys like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as bullpen studs. Sunday was the first time he’s been used out of place all season.
Both were head-scratching moves. Yes, he was presented with an unlikely situation all game due to deGrom’s early departure, and perhaps he was saving Lugo to go for multiple innings in the event the game went deep into extra innings. But Familia, who presumably needed the work, seems to lack something in non-save situations. It showed. And despite all of Blevins struggles this season, it's hard to justify getting beat in that spot with him standing on the bullpen mound.
This is Mickey’s first year managing in the big leagues, and it’s going to take him some time to adjust to the quirks of each of the pitchers he’s inherited, and how to make some important managerial decisions when the game is on the line. A major part of that will be managing the bullpen. With deGrom's early exit, Sunday was a tall order, and unfortunately, it didn't break the Mets' skipper's way.
Photo credits: John Minchillo/AP