Francisco Rodriguez was supposed to be the answer to the bullpen problems the Mets suffered last year. For the first half of the season, he was as good as advertised, picking up save after save and keeping his ERA south of 1.00. Then Luis Castillo dropped the pop-up at Yankee Stadium, giving Rodriguez his first blown save of the season. This was followed by long periods of inactivity due to the lack of save situations given to him by the team. Now he’s become very mortal on the mound and perhaps there is something more to it than what we’re being led to believe.
When JJ Putz and Frankie Rodriguez were acquired during last year’s Winter Meetings, the Mets had scored themselves a coup that immediately gave them a bullpen to be reckoned with. No longer were they going to have to trot out a smorgasbord of relievers as they did in 2008 after the season-ending injury to closer Billy Wagner and subsequent acquisition of Luis Ayala.
Both Putz and Rodriguez were lights out over the first few weeks of 2009. In his first seven appearances, Putz had a 1.29 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. Then he took the loss in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 21. Three appearances later, he was credited with another loss, this time against the Florida Marlins.
As the Mets played through May, Putz’s performances were maddeningly inconsistent. In 16 appearances in May, Putz picked up six holds and two saves, but also gave up earned runs in six other appearances. It was hit or miss with Putz which was not what the Mets expected out of their top set-up man. Something must have been wrong with Putz to be so ineffective. It turned out that something was indeed wrong. Putz was placed on the disabled list in early June and required surgery to remove a bone spur and bone fragments from his right elbow.
Now Frankie Rodriguez is struggling, but he wasn’t always that way. Over his first 31 appearances, he was dominant. His ERA was 0.56 and his WHIP was 0.99. Since then, he’s done a complete 180. Including last night’s meltdown against the San Diego Padres, his ERA is 8.64 (16 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings) and his WHIP is an astronomical 2.04. He has also given up four home runs in that span, after only giving up one long ball prior to his ineffective stretch.
What could be the cause of his breakdown on the mound? Some might say he never recovered from Luis Castillo’s dropped pop-up at Yankee Stadium. Others might point to the recent lack of save situations, particularly after the All-Star Break, causing Frankie to lose any rhythm he might have had.
However, SNY noticed that his velocity has been going down on his pitches, allowing hitters to foul off pitches they normally would not have caught up to. This has caused Rodriguez to work deeper into counts, allowing for more walks and an occasional hittable pitch, such as the one that Everth Cabrera hit for the game-winning grand slam last night.
Could Frankie secretly be hiding an injury? JJ Putz was cruising along until he inexplicably started pitching poorly. That was later explained by the bone spur found in his right elbow. Numerous Mets players have played through aches and pains this season. All this has done is exacerbate their injuries. If Frankie is hurt, he should come out and say it before he continues to embarrass himself on the field. He still has two more years left on his Mets contract. We need a healthy Frankie Rodriguez if he’s going to continue to be our closer. Let’s hope he doesn’t do anything stupid by concealing an injury just because he wants to help the team salvage whatever there is left to salvage from this forgettable season.