One of the biggest changes we’ll see as Mets fans this year will be in the bullpen. Of course, Francisco Rodriguez is still at the back of the pen. But there are some big changes in front of him. Last season the Mets acquired J.J. Putz in a trade before the season and that sealed the setup role for 2009. It didn’t work out as planned with Putz only pitching in 29 games before having elbow surgery. But the plan for the season was clear. It isn’t so clear who will set up Rodriguez in 2010.
Ryota Igarashi may have the inside track if he can show the type of performance that he did while playing in Japan. The 30 year-old right hander is a flame thrower with a touch of wildness. You can read a great profile of Igarashi at NPB Tracker. We’ll get a much better idea of what he can do against Major League hitters during spring training. Sometimes the success that players have in Japan just doesn’t translate here in the U.S.
Kelvim Escobar may be in the mix for the setup role as well. He’s had some success, including an 18-win season in 2007, as a starter but has only pitched one game since the end of that season. He did have 38 saves with the Blue Jays in 2002, so he’s not a complete stranger to the bullpen. If he’s healthy, he could find his way to the back of the bullpen.
Pedro Feliciano will be near the back of the pen after having four straight excellent seasons in the bullpen. I like him a lot more as a situational reliever than a setup man. And I’d be shocked if the Mets looked to move him out of a role that he’s had so much success.
This may also be a season where we see a role for Eddie Kunz in the bigs. But I wouldn’t count on him leaving Port St. Lucie with the Mets. Bobby Parnell also see a more prominent role in the bullpen. I really like what I’ve seen of him and think he has some great potential. Overall, you can expect Escobar and Igarashi to see more consistent appearances near the end of games this season.