PORT ST. LUCIE — The Mets were looking for contributions from their bullpen depth even before Edwin Diaz tore his right patellar tendon, but now the need has amplified.
Diaz underwent surgery to repair the tendon and will likely be sidelined for the season, leaving the Mets with four high-leverage relievers tested in David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley and Drew Smith.
Robertson, based on experience, seems the most likely of the group to take on the closest role, but as a residual effect, the Mets will need other arms behind him.
“Nobody’s going to replace Edwin, and we certainly didn’t want to replace Edwin. He’s one of a kind,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. are able to do, and if we do, we’ll be exactly where we want to be at the end, and the goal won’t change.”
Here’s a look at some of the relievers from their first camp with the Mets who are under consideration for major league jobs:
John Curtiss: Hefner has known the right-hander from his time with the Twins.
Curtiss, 29, was signed last March – even as he was set to spend the season recovering from Tommy John surgery – as a low-risk, high-potential option.
“He’s an elite athlete, with a powerful fastball, powerful slider and emergent change,” Hefner said. “Something we worked on in the offseason was the switch, adding him to his repertoire just to give him a third option so he didn’t have to rely on the slider so much.”
Curtiss appeared in 41 games combined for the Marlins and Brewers in 2021 and threw a 3.45 ERA.
Jeff Brigham: The Mets acquired the right-hander in November in a trade from the Marlins that also brought Elieser Hernandez to the organization.
Brigham, 31, threw a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances for the Marlins last season.
“He’s got elite reach on the fastball and a nice sweeping slider,” Hefner said. “For him, it’s about moving forward and being able to use his weapons. I think if he does that, he can be very successful.
Jimmy Yacabonis: The right-hander hasn’t allowed a point in his six appearances this spring.
He was brought to camp on a minor league contract after spending last season with the Marlins and Rays, for which he combined to pitch in 14 games and post an 8.36 ERA.
The 30-year-old Elizabeth, NJ native was drafted by the Orioles during Buck Showalter’s managerial tenure in Baltimore.
“Yacabonis is a bit similar to Brigham in some ways with the big slider, but he throws a sinker instead of the four seams, so it’s a true east-west profile,” Hefner said. “With him it’s all about going forward and if he does that he can use those extreme moves to his advantage.”
Zach Muckenhirn: Another Orioles draft pick while Showalter was in Baltimore, the 28-year-old southpaw hasn’t allowed a run in six appearances this spring.
“He has a unique setup on the mound,” Hefner said. “He’s on the far side of first base, which you don’t see and he’s a high-carrying quadrangle, he can throw it to lefties and righties and an emergent slider. He rode at 95 mph [on Thursday] so he’s intriguing from that point of view. He’s a neutral guy, where he also has the weapons to attack right-handers. He’s not just a left-to-left guy.
Stephen Ridings: The 27-year-old former Yankees reliever is recovering from a shoulder injury and won’t play a game this spring.
The Mets could have a gem, if the right-hander can get healthy and stay there.
“He’s got some of the best things I’ve ever seen, just in terms of speed, movement, deception and the ability to spin the ball and break balls,” Hefner said. “It’s elite. It’s not about stuff, it’s availability. He’s been injured in his career, but if he can make himself available, he’s got the ceiling of a really good major league reliever.
Elieser Hernandez: The right-hander, who arrived with Brigham from the Marlins, has struggled this spring, allowing seven earned runs in his last three outings.
The Mets have used the 27-year-old Hernandez in multi-inning relief appearances.
“For him, it’s not the ability to throw shots, it’s the ability to get the ball out of the area when he wants to,” Hefner said. “He throws so many punches. For him, generating more swings and misses, expanding the area when he gets ahead, that’s kind of where we’re at with him.