Why Back to Back?

Recent news funneling from Flushing and Port St. Lucie is that both Billy Wagner and J.J. Putz are on the mend and could be back in big league uniforms within the next few weeks.

Wagner is ahead of Putz, as he is throwing in actual games. Minor league games in Florida, but games nonetheless. Meanwhile, Putz is tossing bullpen sessions in New York.

One thing noted on MetsBlog was that Wagner would follow a schedule of pitching in a few games a week, and eventually move to a program that includes back-to-back days. It won’t be until he’s proven that he can throw on consecutive days that the Mets will consider adding him to the active 25-man roster.

My question is, why?

First of all, putting relievers into ballgames on back-to-back days is a large part of the reason these former flamethrowers were injured in the first place. The idea that a guy isn’t “ready” until he throw consecutive days is the typical cement-head logic poisoning pitchers throughout pro ball today. Incredibly, the same people who buy into this nonsense also think a starting pitcher can only throw 100 pitches once every five days. Is it me, or is there something screwy here?

Secondly, why would the Mets NEED Billy Wagner to throw on back-to-back days? How about exercising some restraint, and learning a thing or two about PROPER bullpen management? The Mets carry a dozen arms at any given moment, yet Brian Stokes and Tim Redding can go more than a week without getting into a ballgame. And this is termed “management”?

Here’s an idea: bring both Putz and Wags back when they’re capable of throwing 25 pitches in a true “game” situation, experience no pain, and can come back and do the same thing 48 hours later. Then, you use one of them on one day, and the other on another day. Cap each at one full inning. If you’re really lucky, you have yourself a dominant and fresh 8th-inning setup guy every day — what other MLB team can claim that?

This strategy would not put a strain on the bullpen, because a) you’re having one guy instead of two or three get three big outs; and b) you won’t be using 7 relievers every day.

If Jerry Manuel was using those 11th and 12th guys on the pitching staff, maybe I’d look at things differently. But as long as Manuel has to “find innings” for some pitchers to keep them fresh, it shouldn’t be an issue to have two relievers who can’t go back to back.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Wendy August 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm
    With Ollie and Pelfrey, we are eating up the bullpen at an alarming rate, if Putz and/or Wagner come back, that would take some strain off Parnell, Stokes and Feliciano.
  2. isuzudude August 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm
    Wendy, no one is suggesting that having Wagner and/or Putz back wouldn’t help alleviate the strain that’s falling on the bullpen now. But what needs to be remembered is that guys like Green and Stokes and Redding are still going to be in the bullpen when Putz and/or Wagner return. We’ve seen in the past Jerry falling in love with the same 3 or 4 relievers, marching them to the mound night after night regardless of the score or game situation. And this is what breeds injuries and fatigue. So the point isn’t that Wagner or Putz would provide a nice boost to the bullpen, because that much is obvious. The point is not to overuse and abuse Putz and Wagner once they come back, while forgetting about the other half of the bullpen that has managed to hold their own while the big horses have been away in the disabled pasture. And for the Mets to be waiting until these guys can pitch effectively in back to back games is exactly the WRONG mentality to have, especially considering our manager is reluctant to ever give one of his power bullpen arms a day’s rest, even when they’re 100% healthy.
  3. Wendy August 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm
    dude, agreed on all counts, just frustrated with all of these short outings, yes its obvious they will be helping but Jerry has no idea how to handle his pitchers, that much is very obvious.

    I do hope that Putz and Wagner come back healthy and that they will be effective if used smartly.

  4. isuzudude August 14, 2009 at 9:24 am
    According to metsblog…
    “Billy Wagner is scheduled to make what is likely to be his final rehab appearance for Single-A St. Lucie tonight.

    Earlier this week, assistant GM John Ricco told reporters the team no longer has plans to throw Wagner back-to-back days.”

    As long as the Mets heed the advice of MetsToday, there should be sunnier skies ahead.