The only surprising thing about yesterday’s bullpen meltdown at Shea, in which the quartet of Sanchez, Smith, Heilman and perpetually behind-in-the-count Scott Schoeneweis (very bad for the Jews*, even worse for the Mets) squandered a fine effort on behalf of Pedro Martinez and surrendered leads of 4-0 and 5-1 to the piss poor Pittsburgh Pirates….is that it wasn’t a Johan Santana quality start they failed to protect. Aside from that, it was very much business as usual, as the latest capitulation cost the Mets a chance to move within one game of Phillies (8-6 losers to Los Angeles and the disappearing Manny Ramirez). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reveals manager Jerry Manuel is prepared to do something fans have wanted to do for weeks —- toss a hand grenade into the Mets bullpen.
Manuel said this about who will provide the key outs late in games the rest of this season: “Everything from here on out is a possibility.” Manuel shared some options at a post-game news conference, but The Post has learned all three main scenarios the organization is now mulling:
1. Have Eddie Kunz, who has all of three major league appearances, reprise his Double-A closing role, at least until Billy Wagner returns, which is currently scheduled for Monday. This is the most likely choice.
2. Keep Brian Stokes in the rotation and call upon either John Maine or Oliver Perez to serve as a multi-inning fireman. For now the Mets don’t want to mess with Mike Pelfrey by requesting a rotation-to-pen change.
3. Summon top pitching prospect Jon Niese for the rotation and use Stokes plus either Maine or Perez to serve as the main late-inning relievers.
Kunz, Maine and Perez all said they were game for any assignment. Yet, all of these scenarios are drenched in peril. Kunz lacks experience or a dependable second pitch. Stokes has just one major league start this year and was a culprit last year in a Tampa pen that was one of the worst ever. Maine is only now ready to come off the DL from a strained rotator cuff, so you wonder how his arm would respond to a change in preparation. Perez has been the Mets’ co-best starter with Johan Santana for two months.
It speaks to Manuel’s desperation – and that of his team – that he is considering the radical with 42 games remaining. He said, “We can’t continue to perform this way late in games.” But a loss like yesterday’s is just so demoralizing and the pen problems now are so episodic that Manuel lost his serenity and put all contingency plans on the table.
(*-line coined by David Roth. But I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said it out loud.)
SI.com’s Jon Heyman claims the often contentious working relationship between Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and club president Larry Lucchino might come to an end this autumn, with the former joining a succession of former Bostonians (Nomar, Manny, Derek Lowe, Dr. Charles Steinberg) at Chavez Ravine. To call this a protracted power struggle would be something of an understatement, though with all due respect to Gammons’ (guitar) protege, things have come an awfully long way since the gorilla suit. Who’d have thought Lucchino would join the West Coast Red Sox alumni club before Kevin Millar?