Okay, not really, but the move to designate Vinny Rottino for assignment and promote left-handed reliever Justin Hampson from Triple-A Buffalo has significant potential ramifications for this Mets bullpen.
There’s the immediate one, which is that Tim Byrdak is no longer the sole lefty in the bullpen. In a perfect world, that would mean more nights off for Byrdak, who is on pace for 84 appearances. That’s easily a career-high for a 38-year-old. And that last sentence should scare you, particularly since it doesn’t include the numerous times Byrdak is warmed up but doesn’t enter the game. If a reliever warms up in a forest, and no fans see him, it still takes a toll on his arm.
More likely, Byrdak works just as often, but Terry Collins employs Hampson against a second key lefty at a different point in the game. After all, that Mets bullpen is just filled with pitchers who don’t get lefties out with any consistency.
Here’s where the interesting part comes with Hampson: he might just be a crossover option for this team. Let me just get the SMALL SAMPLE SIZE warning out front, but with relievers, it’s kind of the only thing you have to use in evaluating them.
Hampson has been quite good for Buffalo so far, with a 2.13 ERA over 42 1/3 innings, 15 walks and 42 strikeouts. As you’d expect, he’s been solid against lefties, with a 1.26 ERA against them. But his line against righties has been quite good, too: 2.57 ERA in 28 innings, 11 walks, 30 strikeouts. He hasn’t been used as a lefty specialist in Buffalo, facing twice as many righties. And he’s been quite effective anyway.
Now whether the Triple-A numbers translate to the major leagues remains to be seen. Hampson is 32, so he’s no prospect. It is telling that despite a solid 2011 in Buffalo, and various bullpen failings, Hampson didn’t get a look last year. Even this year, Robert Carson got the call ahead of Hampson when the Mets tried to augment the bullpen with a second lefty. So I’m anxious to get a look at him.
The numbers suggest that Hampson could surprise if he gets a chance to pitch regularly in New York. And if anybody needs a surprise these days, it is the Mets’ bullpen.