NEW YORK -- The next time Mets manager Terry Collins picks up the bullpen phone to call for his closer his decision will be a little more difficult.
|Mets manager Terry Collins has a few options when choosing his closer by committee for the remainder of 2011. (Getty Images)|
With Francisco Rodriguez getting settled in with his new teammates in Milwaukee after being traded on All-Star game night, the ninth inning has become a whole lot murkier for a team trying to remain relevant in pennant and wild card races.
The relievers sure don't mind.
"That's every day for us down in the bullpen," Parnell said Thursday. "You never know what name's going to be called when the phone rings."
Isringhausen, Beato and Parnell have all earned a look in that spot after having solid seasons. Collins is reluctant to name a full-time closer before the Mets open the second half with a three-game series against division-rival Philadelphia.
"I'm not going to name one guy. All that leads to if things don't work out then I got to make a move," Collins said. "In two weeks there may be one guy. I don't know."
Isringhausen would appear to be a natural choice, having notched 293 career saves -- two more than K-Rod -- but this is the 38-year-old former Mets' phenom's first season back after missing 1 1/2 years due to injuries.
And while Isringhausen moved right into Rodriguez's abandoned locker in the Mets clubhouse, he knows he's there to help the youngsters.
Parnell has received praise for finally learning how to control his slider as a complement to a blazing fastball. Beato began his major league career with 12 appearances without giving up an earned run.
Even though sharing the role means it will be more difficult to find a routine in the bullpen, Beato is ready for the challenge.
"It's new on this level but it's not new to me," said Beato, who closed for Baltimore's Double-A team last season.
Regardless of who finishes the game, the Mets are entering a crucial period. At 46-45, they are third in the NL East, 11 games behind the Phillies and 7 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Braves.
Losing money and embroiled in the Bernard Madoff scandal, should the Mets fall further out of contention before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, New York's first-year general manager Sandy Alderson could unload several other players to clear money for next season and help build up the farm system.
Rodriguez's trade made immediate sense because he was on track to reach 55 games finished this season, automatically triggering an option that would pay him $17.5 million next year. But Carlos Beltran and even Jose Reyes could find themselves on the way out if the Mets don't play well.
"There's no magic number above or below which makes us a buyer or seller," Alderson said. "It's one of those things we'll probably know when we see it."
Also, first baseman Ike Davis had a cortisone shot Thursday in his aching ankle and will wait three more weeks before deciding if season-ending surgery is the best option.
Davis began running last week for the first time since soon after he was hurt in a collision with David Wright on May 10, and he felt pain while running without warming up while wearing a weight -- and stress -- reducing harness.
Alderson said Reyes, the NL's All-Star shortstop, likely will not be back when he is due to return from the disabled list. Out since July 3 with a strained left hamstring, Reyes was on the field Thursday for a workout but has not ramped up his running yet.
"He's just not doing anything that would put a strain on that hamstring," Alderson said. "We'll be careful."
On a more positive note, star third baseman Wright [stress fracture in back] will play his first rehab game Friday for Class-A St. Lucie. He's been out since May 16.