J.P. Howell

The Mets continue to monitor the market for left-handed relievers

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After losing Josh Edgin to Tommy John surgery, the Mets are currently in search of a left-hander out of their bullpen. Brian Matusz of the Orioles has been mentioned as a possibility for a couple of weeks now, but the club has cast a pretty wide net.

Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reports that the Mets are keeping an eye on J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, and Adam Liberatore from the Dodgers in case one of them becomes available. That’s no sure thing, as Howell is costly and he’s one of the only (healthy) locks in the Dodgers’ bullpen while Rodriguez and Liberatore still have options remaining.

Meanwhile, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York hears that New York is still intrigued by Rex Brothers from the Rockies. Brothers, who struggled to the tune of a 5.59 ERA over 74 appearances last season, was mentioned as a possible fit back when Dillon Gee was linked in trade talks with Colorado in December.

The Mets do have some internal options from the left side, but they aren’t pretty. Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin is still in camp, as well as non-roster invitee Scott Rice and minor leaguer Dario Alvarez. While a trade is a possibility, the Mets could see some names shake loose from other camps in the coming days.

Don Mattingly has no idea how to deal with the eighth inning


It was Brian Wilson pretty much all season, for better or worse. Mostly worse. Wilson ended the regular season with a 4.66 ERA, but he was the Dodgers’ eighth-inning guy the whole way through (at least in some combination with J.P. Howell), collecting 22 holds as Kenley Jansen’s setup man.

In the postseason, Don Mattingly suddenly abandoned that plan. Pedro Baez relieved Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers down 7-6 in Game 1 of the NLDS, and Wilson wasn’t among four relievers used in what turned out to be a 10-9 loss.

Wilson also went unused in Game 2, which the Dodgers led 2-0 after seven innings. Howell relieved Zack Greinke with lefties due up in the eighth, but he didn’t get an out before allowing a game-tying homer. Brandon League, not Wilson, took over from there in a 2-2 game in the eighth. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth in the 3-2 win.

In Game 3, Mattingly turned to Scott Elbert in the seventh in a 1-1 game. He gave up a two-run homer to Kolten Wong before being lifted. League finished the seventh. Wilson came in down 3-1 in the eighth, allowed two out of three batters to reach and was replaced by Howell. The Dodgers went on to lose by the same score.

At this point, Mattingly simply has no idea how best to get to Jansen in the ninth inning. His hope for Games 4 and 5 has to be that his starters go eight innings, though that will be a lot to ask from Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest. Mattingly has tried Baez, a hard-throwing rookie who has spent most of his pro career as a third baseman,  as his bridge to his closer. He’s tried Howell. On Monday, he went to Elbert, who pitched 4 1/3 innings in the majors this season and was the last pitcher included on the postseason roster. Mattingly is winging in, and nothing has worked as hoped so far.

What Mattingly hasn’t done is try to stretch Jansen beyond one inning. That might need to change on Tuesday. If the Dodgers take a narrow lead into the eighth, Mattingly’s best bet is to ask Jansen to go two innings. The closer will have Wednesday off anyway.

Win or no, Zack Greinke was the story in Game 2 of the NLDS


Zack Greinke hurled seven scoreless innings Saturday in the Dodgers’ 3-2 win over the Cardinals that evened up the NLDS. He allowed just two hits, a total he matched in his three times at bat on the night. His third inning single — on a ball dropped perfectly into right field after Greinke showed bunt with a man on second and no outs — led to the Dodgers’ only two runs while he was in the game.

It was an exquisite showcase performance for the former Cy Young Award winner, though because J.P. Howell gave up a game-tying homer in the eighth, there was no Gatorade bath for him afterwards.  That was reserved for Matt Kemp, who homered to put the Dodgers back on top in the bottom of the eighth. Greinke probably preferred it that way anyway.

Greinke came up small in his first postseason with the Brewers in 2011. A product of a costly trade with the Royals the previous winter, Greinke led the way in the regular season for Milwaukee, but then gave up 15 runs — 12 earned — over 16 2/3 innings in his three postseason starts as the Brewers lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS. He was much better last year in his first tour with the Dodgers, finishing with a 2.57 ERA in three starts before his team again fell to St. Louis in the NLCS. Still, until tonight, he had given up at least two runs in each of his six postseason starts. Tonight, he never allowed a runner past second base.

In fact, Greinke was so good that he probably forced Don Mattingly’s hand as far as starting Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 against the Cardinals. Doing so would allow the Dodgers to have Greinke available on normal rest for a potential Game 5, which sounds like the best recipe for winning.