Mets' pen needs work

As the Mets wash the bad taste of Monday's 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds off of their collective palettes, the reality of the pink elephant in the corner – the club's mediocre bullpen – continues to persist.

With heaping gobs of money committed to new position players and starting pitchers this winter, the Mets have taken a wait-and-see approach regarding their relievers: essentially, to wait and see how long it would take for the bullpen to burn them.

It took all of eight innings, when Pedro Martinez's 12-strikeout performance – the most dominating start ever by a Met on Opening Day – was chipped away and reduced to a side note by Cincinnati.

Closer Braden Looper surrendered a two-run homer in the ninth to Adam Dunn to tie the game, a bomb to deep right-center, then served up a looping fly ball to Joe Randa that cleared the left-field fence for a game-winning homer.

Looper never recorded an out in the inning.

"Pedro pitched a great game," Looper told reporters. "He struck out the world. I feel bad for him more than anything. He deserved it. I'm sure he knows how I feel right now. I don't know what to say. Basically, I stunk. I didn't get the job done."

For all the jazz about the 'New' Mets, led by Martinez and Carlos Beltran, the bullpen could truly become their undoing. It is just one game, albeit a crushing way to begin the season, but there was a reason the Mets looked into acquiring Ugueth Urbina from the Detroit Tigers and Danys Baez from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during Spring Training.

With neither pitcher available, the Mets raised eyebrows with the crop of relievers they wound up bringing to Cincinnati for Monday's opener.

The group includes journeyman Manny Aybar (who has allowed more than one hit per inning pitched in his career, and kept that trend up with a two-hit, one-run inning Monday), 40-year-old Roberto Hernandez and a trio of lefties that includes Mike Matthews, Dae-Sung Koo (who threw a scoreless inning Monday) and Felix Heredia, the latter of whom was asked to go on the disabled list as Spring Training wound down, but declined the request.

Should there be repeat performances of Monday's defeat, it's a sure bet that one or more of the relievers currently on the roster will be jettisoned in favor of new personnel.


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