On those rare occasions when the Mets need to protect a late lead, Parnell and Rice have been Terry Collins‘ first line of defense and his go-to guys.
For Rice, it has led to an NL-leading 32 appearances. That puts the late-blooming rookie on pace for 96 appearances this season.
For a couple of weeks now on MMO, I’ve argued Collins’ questionable bullpen management habits and his propensity to burn out his pen’s best arms before the All Star break. We’ve seen this acted out before in his first two seasons, but what he’s doing now with Rice is bordering on negligence and insanity.
Wanting to use Rice as often as he has is totally understandable given that he’s held batters to a slim .198 batting average this season – only Parnell and Matt Harvey have been better. But to use him with such reckless abandon is what the big issue is. There’s always a price to pay when you abuse an arm like that, and usually it’s the pitcher or the team that pays the price. On Sunday it was both.
Rice walked four batters and struggled mightily with his command. Questionable still was Collins’ decision to leave a weary-armed Rice in the game to face right-handed slugger Marcell Ozuna who ripped a two-run double to tie the game. Chris Coghlan would follow and put the Marlins ahead with an RBI groundout to hand Rice his fourth loss of the season.
In his first 22 appearances Rice posted a 2.67 ERA. Over his last ten appearances he’s posted a 5.00 ERA and is now at 4.00 for the season. Coincidence? I think not.