4/20/2014 7:19 P.M. ET
Struggling Valverde re-assigned to setup role
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The first loss of Jose Valverde's season was the loss of his role. Valverde struggled in the first two weeks of the year as the Mets' closer, and manager Terry Collins announced Sunday that he was switching to veteran Kyle Farnsworth in save situations for the foreseeable future.
Valverde started the year with five straight scoreless appearances, but he had given up at least one home run in each of his last three outings before pitching a scoreless 14th to earn the win Sunday as the Mets outlasted the Braves, 4-3.
The right-hander has one blown save, and he allowed a three-run homer in Saturday night's loss before Collins elected to try a different option in the ninth inning
"I'm going to close with Farnsworth right now," Collins said Sunday. "I talked with Jose about it. I know he's still got the stuff to get people out. I want him to start using his other pitches a little bit. His fastball is certainly not 97 [mph] anymore, but it's good enough. He's just got to mix up some pitches."
Valverde has 288 career saves, but the 36-year-old struggled to a 5.59 ERA in 20 appearances for the American League champion Tigers last season. Valverde signed with the Mets before Spring Training and won the closer's job, but he has an 8.00 ERA in his first eight appearances.
Valverde was playful and dismissive Sunday morning when he met with the media, but he said that he understands the manager's position and wants to do the best he can for the team. Valverde, who has cracked 40 saves three times in his career, didn't want to dwell too much on his adversity.
"It's a part of the game," said Valverde of his recent struggles. "There's nothing you can do. It's over already. You know what I mean? It's a new game today. Try to win today, and that's it."
Valverde stressed several times on Sunday that everybody in the Mets' clubhouse wants to win, and he said he's going to work with his pitching coach and catchers to find his best form. But he's not taking his new role as a slight, and he doesn't think pitching earlier in the game will be any easier.
"I've never had pressure in my life," he said of taking a less stressful role. "The people who have pressure can go home. If you want to play baseball, play it because you like it. You enjoy it. You want to win. If you [fear] pressure, you have to go home, because this is not the situation you want."
Granderson moved to two-spot in batting order
NEW YORK -- It was just 65 at-bats, but they were 65 highly visible at-bats. Curtis Granderson entered Sunday hitting .140 in his first 16 games as a Met, and most of those struggles have come as the team's cleanup hitter. That's about to change, though, and Granderson was listed as the No. 2 hitter on Sunday.
The new spot in the order didn't exactly jump-start Granderson, who went 0-for-6 and left five men on base, but he did launch a walk-off sacrifice fly to win the game for the Mets in the 14th inning.
Prior to this season, Granderson had rarely hit in the No. 4 slot, and the Mets think that may have played into his early struggles. Now, they like the idea of Granderson batting high in the order, where he can be more patient and get on base in front of David Wright and Daniel Murphy.
"I've been thinking about doing it for a few days," said manager Terry Collins of making the move. "On the off-day, I had a little chance to look at his history. He's got great numbers hitting second, no matter where he's played. I just said, 'You know what? Maybe that's the spot for him.' I know that with the rate right now that [Eric Young] is getting on, maybe he'll get some fastballs to hit."
Granderson has logged career-best numbers in both on-base percentage (.359) and slugging (.546) out of the No. 2 slot, and he's batted there more than any other spot except leadoff. Collins just wants the veteran to feel comfortable, and after that, he wants Granderson to get hot and stay hot.
"He works as hard as anybody. He's going to get it going," he said. "Everybody wants him to do so well because he's such a great guy. ... He's a perfect example of a guy that didn't play very much last year. Playing at this level, when the bright lights come on, it takes a little while to get used to it."
Indeed, Granderson was hampered by injuries and missed most of 2013, playing just 61 games in his final season with the Yankees. Granderson performed well in Spring Training, and he said Saturday that it's only a matter of time before the production translates into the regular season.
"You've got to get pitches to hit. And once you get those pitches to hit, you can't miss them," said Granderson. "Once you do that, you've got to give credit to the defense out there. They're going to be trying to do whatever they can to catch as many of them as they can. The thing is to find grass. Once you get some grass and put a little dirt on the ball, things start to move in your direction."
Granderson had a four-game hitting streak last week, but he's batting .143 with just one extra-base hit in his last eight contests. He's had only one multihit game this season. The Mets know that everybody slumps at some point, though, and they're not overly worried about starting slow in April.
"We're starting to see some bright spots," Collins said of Granderson's at-bats. "As always happens, everybody wants immediate results. I continue to go back to the fact that I've had history with guys who are slow starters. He's not necessarily one of those, but I know when he gets it going, he can carry it. I just don't think not playing him is going to help him. I think he's got to play."
Farnsworth to take over Mets' closing duties
NEW YORK -- They signed him to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training, and then they released him. They re-signed him, and less than a month later, he's now their closer. Kyle Farnsworth has had an interesting road with the Mets this spring, and he's ready to work the ninth inning.
Farnsworth, a 14-year veteran of the big leagues, was tabbed as the Mets' closer on Sunday morning, replacing fellow veteran and fellow ex-Tiger Jose Valverde as the team's relief ace. Farnsworth has 54 career saves, and the 38-year-old said he's ready to contribute wherever the Mets need him.
"We're all a team here," said Farnsworth of his role change. "We all have the same goal: Try to go out there and win the best we can. I'm not going to change anything I've done, and neither should anybody else. We're in it together. We've got to contribute one way or another to help this team win."
Farnsworth has pitched in 866 big league games over his career, and he's been the final pitcher on the mound for his team in roughly a third of those games (279 times.) The right-hander saved a career-best 25 games for Tampa Bay in 2011, but he has just two saves in the last two seasons.
Still, Farnsworth said that it isn't really anything different to take his stuff to the ninth inning.
"I'm not going to approach it any way different than I've pitched my whole life," he said of closing. "I'm just going to go out there and compete to the best of my ability and go from there."
And as for the crazy trajectory his season has taken? Farnsworth was released by the Mets on March 23 and re-signed on the 26th, and he broke Spring Training with the club. Now, barely two weeks into the season, the reliever is suddenly set to work the most important innings.
"That's the way baseball is," said Farnsworth. "You've just got to be always grateful you've got a uniform on and take the opportunities that come along and run with them. Just keep on going."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.