In 2008, Jerry Manuel didn't have a choice when it came to his bullpen. He had to bring in relievers at some point, and those relievers would blow games and Manuel was just an observer to the wreckage.
That wasn't supposed to be the case in 2009. Signing Francisco Rodriguez, trading for J.J. Putz and reorganizing the rest of the pen was supposed to give Manuel real choices to get outs in the later innings. The problem is that Manuel isn't availing himself of his choices, and keeps going to Putz in the eighth inning. Rather than being a helpless victim, Manuel is now driving the bus over the cliff himself.
Based on his pedigree, it's understandable that Putz got a second and even a third chance. But Monday night's game proved that there's something wrong with Putz that goes beyond easy fixes. After watching him struggle with his control all of May, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen worked with Putz on Monday afternoon on his delivery to bring his walks down to a manageable level. It worked, to a point. Putz threw strikes, they just happened to be the up in the zone meaty variety best served with marinara sauce and spaghetti. That led to four runs and an 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh.
He's had elbow issues, he's claimed to be unable to motivate himself since he's not closing games and he can't throw strikes without them getting pounded. All that adds up to a guy who should be nowhere near the eighth inning of close games, especially when Bobby Parnell is on the roster and pitching well.
Parnell did appear in Monday's game. Manuel trusted him with the final out of the sixth inning, a role that shouldn't be occupied by your best non-K-Rod reliever on the roster.
The Mets made moves this winter to avoid bullpen disaster, but preperation still needs proper execution. Right now, Manuel is failing the rest of his team by allowing reputation to trump production in the bullpen.