04/19/09 7:05 PM ET
K-Rod, Putz impacting 'pen on, off field
New York (6-6) at St. Louis (8-5), 8:15 p.m. ET
By Brittany Ghiroli / Special to MLB.com
It's given Mets manager Jerry Manuel peace of mind, National League opponents something to fear, and the Amazins a chance to be, well, pretty darn amazing.
"No. 1, they are very good, and No. 2, they are very professional about their roles," Manuel said.
And while the 'pen's numbers are impressive -- they enter Monday with a Major League-best 1.89 ERA -- the overall impact of veterans like Putz and Rodriguez is nothing to sniff at either.
Whether it's Putz giving Bobby Parnell splitter tips or Rodriguez joking around with Pedro Feliciano at a nearby locker, the veteran arms haven't just improved the club's ERA, they've brought an air of respectability and fun back to the 'pen.
"It would be really hard [for the younger guys] to ask questions if you didn't feel comfortable with some of the guys," Putz said. "Whether it's on the field [or] away from the field, how to handle the media, anything like that. I think it's very important that one, [the veterans] are comfortable doing that, and two, they are comfortable coming to us."
In a position as mental -- and often isolating -- as the bullpen, this year's Mets are slowly but surely forming one fluid unit.
"I think that the chemistry's there," Rodriguez said. "We have a pretty good relationship, especially when three out of the six guys are new here."
Part of the reason the transition has been so easy is the relatively defined roles Manuel dictated this spring.
"J.J. and K-Rod, they are the leaders, so there's no wavering with the other guys," Manuel said. "They know who's in charge.
"You need stability there. When things go wrong, which they will at some point, then there's not a panic. There's a short memory there, and I think that's something we have to learn over time being in that position. And that's something [Putz and Rodriguez] have."
It was Putz and Green who began watching the game from the dugout even if they were done pitching. It's a trend K-Rod -- who as a closer doesn't get that luxury -- says the Angels relievers all took part in as well.
"In the past here, guys would go in, throw their inning and come up in the clubhouse," Putz said. "Well the game's not over yet.
"The biggest thing is the guys that are out there for nine innings see you staying in the dugout, cheering for them, rooting for them for all nine. They are going to want to play that much harder behind you."
It's those small changes in attitude that have contributed to the total turnaround of the Mets' bullpen. While the effect may not be felt as much as their on-field efforts, Manuel certainly appreciates this year's group.
"No question," he said. "It creates a situation for me where it's one less thing I have to be concerned with."Pitching matchup
NYM: LHP Oliver Perez (1-1, 7.84 ERA)
Perez is coming off his first win of the season Wednesday night, a six-inning, one-run performance against the Padres. Although the lefty admitted to not having his best fastball, Perez used his slider and changeup early and often to keep San Diego's batters off balance. He fanned four and walked two, allowing two of the Padres' three hits to Luis Rodriguez. For Perez, it's all about consistency, and Wednesday, he used a methodical approach, throwing 57 of 90 pitches for strikes. STL: RHP Joel Pineiro (2-0, 5.40 ERA)
This remains in pencil, but it's likely the Cardinals will use the off-day Monday to get all of their starters an extra day's break. Pineiro has one good start and one so-so one to his name thus far, but St. Louis has won both games. One trend has held in each of the three seasons in which he's pitched for the Cardinals: Pineiro is much better at Busch Stadium than away from home. Tidbits
Following Sunday afternoon's game, the Mets designated right-hander Nelson Figueroa for assignment and purchased the contract of lefty Casey Fossum from Triple-A Buffalo. In two starts with the Bisons, Fossum is 0-0 with a 0.28 ERA. He has given up five hits and one run over 11 innings, with 12 strikeouts. ... Daniel Murphy's three hits Sunday tied his career high. He singled in the first, third and seventh innings. Omir Santos went 2-for-4 on Sunday, hitting his first career double and triple. He was 1-for-11 in the Majors entering Sunday's game. ... Jose Reyes hit the first triple in Citi Field history in the fifth Sunday. David Wright has the first Mets single, double and home run at Citi Field. ... Wright and Carlos Beltran received their 2008 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards before Sunday's game. Tickets
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Wednesday: Mets (John Maine, 0-1, 7.20) at Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 2-0, 3.31), 8:15 p.m. ET
Thursday: Mets (Livan Hernandez, 1-0, 4.63) at Cardinals (TBD), 1:40 p.m. ET
Friday: Mets (TBD) vs. Nationals (TBD), 7:10 p.m. ET
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.