Jeurys Familia underwent surgery in May to fix blood clots in his right shoulder. After some successful rehab appearances in the minor leagues, he made his return to Major League action on August 26th against the Nationals.
That game did not go well as he allowed three earned runs off four hits and two walks in just one inning of work. His next time out went a lot better as he pitched 1.2 innings and allowed only a walk. That’s how the trend continued- One good outing, one bad, one good, etc.
Yesterday was an important yet painful step in his recovery process. While it was the first time he pitched in back-to-back games since his return, he was thrust into a high-leverage situation. With a 5-5 tie in the 8th inning, Familia allowed two runs in 0.2 innings to give the Reds a 7-5 lead.
“He was absolutely brilliant [Saturday],” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He just didn’t have the same command, really, more than anything else. Velocity was OK until the last few hitters, until you could tell he was getting fatigued. We’re at the stage where we’re trying to figure out some things. We found out that he’s not ready to go back-to-back.”
The most concerning aspect of his day was not his ineffectiveness, but the fact that his sinker sat at 93-94 mph and his slider was not sharp. He had no command, no velocity and no movement- obviously a recipe for disaster.
The Mets have an off day today before heading to Chicago for a tough series against the Cubs. How Familia is handled during that series will likely be extremely important for his rehabilitation. It will not only affect him for the remainder of this season, but for 2018 as well.
If he is going to be handed the closer role for 2018 as is anticipated, it is important Familia go into spring training with a renewed confidence. His current 5.71 ERA does not instill confidence in anyone, let alone himself. What’s best for him right now is for him to be used in low-leverage situations when he can work on getting outs without too much pressure, not 8th inning tie games less than 20 hours after he last pitched.
“Working my way back to closing? I’m just trying to get to the point I’ve always been, at 100 percent,” Familia said. “I’ve got to keep working on my delivery, and then we’ll see what happens.”
In 17.1 innings this season, he has struck out 15 and walked 14 after an 84:31 ratio last season. He has a ways to go before he regains his All-Star closer status. How he and the rest of the bullpen is managed for the rest of this season will play an enormous role in his comeback.