(Mets Manager Mickey Callaway – Photo by Jason Schott)
The Mets had another bullpen meltdown on Friday night, as closer Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia combined to give up five runs in the ninth inning as the Mets went on to lose, 7-2, to the Phillies.
Diaz, who was regarded as one of the top closers in baseball when the Mets acquired him from Seattle last winter, is now 1-6 with a 5.67 ERA and just 18 saves as we’re past the halfway point of the season.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway addressed all the issues around his bullpen in his pregame press conference on Saturday afternoon:
On if he would pursue other alternatives to Diaz as closer: We’ll always consider that when somebody’s struggling, right. The questions we ask ourselves is ‘how do we get to the ninth?’ and then, if we get to the ninth, who’s pitching well enough at the time to be able to take that person’s place, and that’s not just with the closer’s position – that’s with any position, whether a shortstop’s struggling or an outfielder is struggling at the plate, you know, who can better fill that position? Who’s performing at a level better that can fill that position? We’ll always ask ourselves those questions when guys are struggling and try to make the necessary move. We won’t ever count it out, but we also have to have the right guys to fill in that we are confident is going to be better.”
On if that means Diaz is still his closer now: Yeah, I mean, going in today, he is.
On how he deals with the confidence aspect of being a closer in weighing moving a guy out of the role: You have to have a good bullpen to win games, right, so when you have somebody in certain positions, whether it’s pitching the seventh, the eighth, you’ve identified he’s doing this, he’s doing that – when you take them out of that role, they’re going to take a hit, right, so you’ve got to understand that, first and foremost. Then, okay, now, where an I going to put this guy that’s going to allow him to get back to normal so he can get back to that role, now what do I do with him? Do I take him out of the closer’s role and put him in a high-leverage position that may be even tougher than the closer’s role, or more important in the game than the closer’s role, or do I take him and pitch him in the sixth inning when we’re losing? Those things are all things you have to think about, and you have to understand that that hit that he takes when you take him out might hurt even more than all those other things and might hurt even more than what’s going on right now, and do you just ride it out let him continue to work pregame to be the best he can possibly be when the game comes? You never know. When you take him out and you start pitching him in low-leverage and he gets back, and then he when he goes back, is he the same guy? There’s all kinds of unknowns and we try to do the best we can with all those. You’ve seen us do it with Familia, kind of gone back and forth, put him on the IL with a sore shoulder and put him on a plan while he’s on the IL, try to get him back, he looks great, and then you have a setback, pitch him in low-leverage, pitch him in tie games, so there’s no real answer to that. You just have to continue to work with these guys every day and, like I said, a minute ago, the other personnel is going to have a great effect on what you can do with one guy. If you have four or five guys performing, it’s easy – you take them out, boom, you get them right, you insert them back in when you feel like he’s going – that’s not our case.
On what his pitching sensibilities tell him about Diaz, whether confidence or mechanics is his greater issue: It’s about location – he’s throwing everything over the heart of the plate, and I don’t care if you throw 98 or throw a really good slider, if you throw the ball in the heart of the plate, you’re gonna get beat up. I think the mechanics of it, some of the confidence of it, is not allowing him to get the ball where he wants to, which is up-and-in, down-and-away, and bury the slider, but it’s all about where the pitches end up; that’s what pitching’s always going to come down to.
On how questionable confidence can manifest itself in an inability to make the pitch Diaz wants: That’s the chicken and egg thing; I think he’s got to have some performances to start getting some confidence. He understands that he’s struggling right now, you know, that’s another tough thing to say. You keep on riding him out and just let him figure it out while he’s out there in the game because he’s worked hard in his pregame and the things he’s needed to work on, and it should correct itself…He’s still got a huge smile on his face and says that he’s gonna be fine; he’s just not getting the results that he wants.
On if he has to prep the next pitcher ready to step into the closer’s role with some days’ notice: I think, no matter what role they’re in now, if they’re going to close out the game that night, you just put them in, maybe give them a head’s-up maybe before the game. We do that when Diaz isn’t available, right, we say, ‘hey, you’re probably going to get a save opportunity tonight if we have one.’
On if he thinks closers are more vulnerable now than when he was playing or began his coaching career: It does seem like bullpens in general are having a tougher time these days. I’m not sure what the reasons are; I know a lot of people have their philosophies on why, but bullpens, I think, have always been a little more erratic in performance than starters because starters are starters for a reason, and bullpen guys are bullpen guys for a reason. Most bullpen guys have been starters that couldn’t start because they’ve had some inconsistencies and then, all of a sudden, they’re flashing great stuff out of the bullpen. The things that pushed them to the bullpen in the first place can rear their ugly head in command and consistency with breaking pitches, and lack of third and fourth pitches. Those things can take their toll sometimes, and sometimes they don’t when everything’s going perfect. Bullpens have always been a little more erratic than the starters, but we all know one thing is for sure, that you have to have a great bullpen to win. That’s what makes building a bullpen, that’s what makes watching a bullpen on a daily basis, tough if things aren’t going good.