NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — This weekend against the Phillies, if Mets manager Terry Collins needs to pick up the bullpen phone to call for his closer, his decision won’t be so easy.
He could ask for veteran Jason Isringhausen. Or Bobby Parnell and his 100 mph fastball. Or promising rookie Pedro Beato. Heck, if there are three left-handed hitters due up, Tim Byrdak might make the run in from the bullpen.
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 1½ 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 7½ 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 Calros 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.”
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