Jorge keeps us on edge game after game
The off-season trade for starter Kris Benson to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Jorge Julio has been criticized since it was first rumored. When New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya pulled the trigger on it, the critics had a field day. Even more so when Benson started off good, Julio started off bad, and the Mets were thin in the rotation.
The other player acquired by the Mets in the trade, John Maine, made an emergency start due to that lack of starters. While he did not pitch great, he looked to be a serviceable arm. Unfortunately, he pitched with an injured finger and that caused him to have trouble throwing his curve ball. And to make matters worse for him, he was placed on the Disabled List a few days later.
Jorge Julio was relegated to mop-up duty after his slow start. Way too many gopher balls to be trusted. He looked as bad as the chop shops and auto junk shops behind Shea Stadium. Mets manager Willie Randolph started using him in situations where he can get a little confidence back. He actually started to pitch a little better and was accumulating a high number of strikeouts.
The Mets hosted a three game set against the Atlanta Braves the first week of May. The Friday night game went on forever and the bullpen was taxed. Closer Billy Wagner and set-up men Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman were used in addition to Julio.
The middle game was one that Randolph hoped he could get a good and deep start out of Victor Zambrano. As usual, Zambrano could not help his team and left the game in the second inning with an elbow injury that subsequently required season-ending surgery. Long man Darren Oliver came in cold and was effective. By the bottom of the ninth, the Mets led 6-4 and didn't have many options left.
Enter Julio for his first save opportunity of the season. Getting smacked around but surviving, he escaped a jam after giving up one run. Not perfect, but you'll take the win as a Met fan.
What this does can possibly have an effect on this team. By Randolph showing faith in Julio to close out the Braves can possibly be the springboard he needed to once again find himself. Remember, Julio was the Orioles closer once and did have a 30-save season. If he can just pitch well enough in the middle innings that may allow Heilman to get back to the rotation where he belongs. After Pedro and Glavine, it’s a crap shoot. Steve Traschel has been shaky lately, but he should go back to being what he has been his entire career- a good middle or back of the rotation guy. If Brian Bannister gets healthy and comes back soon, that still leaves one more spot available. With the way that Jose Lima has pitched, he should be jettisoned right away.
Heilman has proved himself worthy to start. He has been more effective out of the pen, but Sanchez was not expected to be as good as he has. Do you feel more confident having Heilman or the likes of Maine or Jeremi Gonzalez starting? If the pen can survive without him, he may be their best bet to have a lead to give them.
We may look back at Julio's first save later in the season and remember how important it was to strengthen the pen. The team is hesitant to move Heilman out of the pen, but their choices are limited.
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