WASHINGTON _ An idea Mets manager Jerry Manuel flat out rejected less than two weeks ago is now under consideration.
Or is it?
When the Mets were in Florida at the end of last month, Manuel dismissed the concept of using starting pitchers on their between-starts throw days out of the bullpen, but prior to last nightâ€™s 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals, suggested John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey might be used until Billy Wagner is eligible to come off the disabled list next Monday.
Manuel was also prepared to give Eddie Kunz the save opportunity, but stuck with Pedro Feliciano.
Feliciano pitched a perfect ninth and Joe Smith worked the eighth as the bullpen preserved Johan Santanaâ€™s tenth victory.
The bullpen has blown 20 save opportunities, and six times coughed up a lead behind Santana.
Perhaps, but was the suggestion only a ploy to jumpstart the pen which has had stellar moments this season, such as during the 10-game winning streak?
“Iâ€™m not trying to light any fires,â€™â€™ Manuel said, then after grinning, added: “But, if thatâ€™s how they want to take it, thatâ€™s fine with me.â€™â€™
The bullpen usually meets the first day of a series, but yesterday things took a serious tone as Scott Schoeneweis opened a vein.
“I took it personally,â€™â€™ Schoeneweis said of the bullpenâ€™s troubles and the suggestion a starter had to come to the rescue. “We need to be ourselves. We are good enough.â€™â€™
Smith, who had given up four runs in his previous five appearances, didnâ€™t like seeing reporters talk to several starters before the game about doing his job.
“It hurts,â€™â€™ Smith said. “I took that a little personally. Thatâ€™s supposed to be our responsibility. It fired me up. I took it as being totally motivational.â€™â€™
One game does not mean the Metsâ€™ pen has turned it around, and if Manuel isnâ€™t playing head games with his pitchers, this would have to be clearly defined.
For example, Manuel said if a starter were to be used he would know before the game and ideally it would be on his between starts throw day; he would start an inning; and he would not pitch the day before a scheduled start.
Ideally, the Mets hope the relievers figure it out themselves.
Manuelâ€™s ninth-inning plan last night was to match up the lefty Feliciano against the lefty hitting Willie Harris.
When Harris flew out, Manuel stayed in the dugout.
“I looked at Jerry,â€™â€™ Feliciano said. “When he didnâ€™t do anything, I figured I had a shot (for the save).â€™â€™
Feliciano struck out the next two hitters to leave Kunz waiting for his first save opportunity.
“Iâ€™m not disappointed,â€™â€™ Kunz said. “Iâ€™m just here to help any way I can.â€™â€™
However, Santana, at $137.5 million, is here to do more than help.
Santana reached double-digit victories for the sixth straight year, and last night gave the Mets at least seven innings for the 15th time.
“It was good to see the bullpen come through,â€™â€™ said Santana, who on this night, coughed up two leads.
The Mets gave Santana a 2-0 lead in the first on Carlos Delgadoâ€™s two-run single, which he lost in the bottom of the inning on RBI singles by Ryan Zimmerman and Jesus Flores.
The Mets regained the lead, 3-2, in the third on back-to-back doubles by David Wright and Carlos Beltran, but Santana gave that back on a pinch-hit homer to Ryan Langerhans to lead off the seventh.
The Mets pushed ahead the game-winner in the eighth when Saul Rivera hit Damion Easley with a pitch with the bases loaded.
This time, those last six outs werenâ€™t an adventure, bringing to mind something general manager Omar Minaya said earlier.
“The reality of it is we might not do anything,â€™â€™ Minaya said of the juggling of bullpen roles.
“Weâ€™re always discussing things. If the bullpen is not stabilized, we have to consider it.â€™â€™