SAN DIEGO — Seth Lugo’s return from the injured list this week only highlighted the Mets’ newly found riches in their bullpen.
As the team’s most dependable reliever for most of the previous three seasons, Lugo would have been sorely missed in the past. He instead returned to a bullpen loaded with power arms, producing at a high level.
“He was one of the few guys you could trust in the past and now there’s a lot of those guys,” acting general manager Zack Scott said Friday before the Mets fell to the Padres, 2-0. “The fact we can internally even have debates about who should be coming in for certain spots … that used to be not so much of a debate from what people are telling me.”
A perennial sore spot, the Mets’ bullpen ranked sixth in the major leagues with a 3.41 ERA entering Friday. Over the previous 10 games, it had pitched to a 2.05 ERA, which included 12 ²/₃ innings over the prior two days, in which it surrendered only one earned run.
It’s been a group effort, from former All-Stars Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, to solid veterans such as Miguel Castro, Aaron Loup and Trevor May, to a surprise emergence from Robert Gsellman. Familia allowed a run in the bullpen’s 3 ¹/₃ innings of work on Friday night.
Scott, who arrived to the front office from the Red Sox last winter, said he is only surprised to a degree in the manner this bullpen has performed.
“It’s an interesting thing because I know the Mets’ recent history has been the bullpen has been an Achilles’ heel, but looking from the outside in before I got here, I just thought there’s some really good arms here,” Scott said.
At the top of that list were Familia and Diaz, both of whom had been inconsistent.
“Familia, to me, his stuff is so good but there is no reason he couldn’t be successful,” Scott said. “It wasn’t a falloff in stuff so much as there was control [issues]. There was just no reason he couldn’t be significantly better.
“Diaz, I know, he had the one really tough year , but he was dominant last year and always has had elite stuff. There’s just a lot of guys here that should be good and just for whatever reason weren’t getting the results.”
The left-hander Loup, who has pitched to a 2.40 ERA and 1.13 WHIP since arriving on a one-year contract worth $3 million, has been among the surprises. The Mets had previously targeted Brad Hand, who signed with Washington for $10.5 million over one year.
“Adding Loup has been outstanding — I think better so far than we had any right to expect,” Scott said. “There are just a lot of good arms. To me it always comes down to depth, especially in today’s game.”
Lugo’s return, after three months rehabbing from surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow, left Scott facing a roster crunch in which Sean Reid-Foley was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, despite pitching to a 1.98 ERA in six appearances. The Mets acquired Reid-Foley last winter in the trade that sent Steven Matz to Toronto.
“That is a tough conversation with Sean, because he’s done nothing wrong to get sent down,” Scott said. “It’s just kind of a roster management issue and that sucks because you always want to reward the guys who are pitching well.
“I told him, ‘It’s a good problem on our end, but it’s not good for you that we have a lot of guys that are throwing the ball real well and that you have options.’ That is just sometimes how it works, but I told him he’s going to be back.”