Even though the Mets’ bullpen ranks 13th in the NL with a 4.09 ERA and 14th with a .261 BAA, there has been many positive developments as opposed to 2011-2012 when Sandy Alderson was forced to completely revamp the pen and hit the reset button.
Before suffering a herniated disk in his neck that was operated on last week, Bobby Parnell was establishing himself as one of the league’s top closers, using his knuckle curve to finally grow into the role and post some gaudy numbers. By all accounts, he should be ready for Spring Training.
Another nice surprise was 31-year old rookie Scott Rice. It may have taken the southpaw more than 13 years to get to the majors, but once he arrived he became a staple in the Mets pen. His 73 appearances leads the team and the league and you can bet he’ll be back next season.
One of the more remarkable performers out of the pen has come from LaTroy Hawkins who signed a minor league deal with the Mets last offseason. The 40-year old righthander was already giving the Mets more than they could hope for, but when Parnell went down and he stepped in as closer, Hawkins took his game to a whole other level.
Hawkins earned his 10th save of the season on Saturday and in 65.2 innings pitched he’s posted a 1.18 WHIP and 3.15 ERA while striking out 52 and walking just ten batters.
According to Andy Martino of the Daily News, there is mutual interest between the Mets and Hawkins returning next season.
Hawkins told me on Sunday that he wants to return. He loves playing for Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen, and wants to live with his family in Manhattan for the summer; for a variety of reasons, they were not able to do so next summer.
Once the pitcher declared his intentions, I ran this by a front office contact, and came away with a clear answer: Happy with the veteran’s performance and personality, the Mets would love to re-sign him. In a winter that is expected to involve the pursuit of high-profile free agents, Hawkins will not be the first priority, but he wants to play for the Mets, and the Mets want him.
Why, by the way, is he so effective at an advanced baseball age, able to slip into the closer role after Bobby Parnell’s season-ending surgery? On Sunday, Hawkins cited improved health. In 2011, he was recovering from shoulder surgery, and last year was slowed by a broken pinky on his right hand.
I’m always skeptical in situations like this, especially when a player is already past the age of 40. I usually just thank our lucky stars that we got the performance that we did. But I’m a little flexible on bringing back Hawkins, and most of that stems from the leadership role he’s assumed in the clubhouse. Maybe bringing him back for another year isn’t such a bad idea.