Remember two months ago when Terry Collins floated using Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo in the bullpen as opposed to leaving them off the Opening Day roster?
Now add Jeurys Familia to the list of mounting casualties for the team and add another item for the shopping list as the trade deadline gets closer … if the Mets are still relevant then.
Sandy Alderson announced Friday that the closer had undergone potentially season-ending surgery earlier in the day in St. Louis to address a blood clot in his right shoulder that had caused tingling in the ring finger of his pitching hand on Wednesday.
The Mets did get a dry run without Familia the first couple of weeks of the season, while he was serving an MLB-imposed suspension stemming from a domestic-violence allegation. At the time, Addison Reed capably stepped into the closer's role and Fernando Salas capably handled the eighth inning.
However, that was only a temporary solution. Salas now has posted a 10.38 ERA in his last dozen appearances. And just how much more can Collins possibly lean on his trusted relievers anyway before they falter as a result of the extra burden?
The Mets bullpen entered Friday night having logged 126 innings this season. That's seventh-most in MLB. An even more concerning statistic is the number of relief appearances. Mets relievers have combined to make 134 appearances this season. That's the most in the majors -- 10 more appearances than runner-up Milwaukee.
The impact of that usage may not be felt immediately. But there's a cumulative effect that will certainly takes its toll on the core group of pitchers as the season progresses.
For now, Alderson indicated, the solution will come from within. That's undoubtedly the route the GM has to take at this point, since there aren't exactly a glut of sellers in mid-May. He also can again scour the waiver wire, trying to find the bullpen equivalent of Tommy Milone.
But make no mistake: Alderson will have to bolster the bullpen via acquisition as it gets closer to the trade deadline if the Mets can hang in the race minus so many core pieces.
The Post identified David Robertson, Nate Jones, Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome as pitchers who could become available via trade.
Alderson also revealed Friday in Milwaukee that Steven Matz and Lugo will be ready to pitch in an extended spring training game on Saturday.
Assuming everything progresses without hiccups at this point, both appear three or so weeks away. The extra starters, though, are no longer a consideration for bullpen duty. Given Noah Syndergaard now is sidelined for months with a lat strain, those arms are desperately needed in their originally intended roles.
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.