PORT ST. LUCIE — The Mets were looking for contributions from their bullpen depth even before Edwin Diaz tore his right patellar tendon, but now the need has become magnified.
Diaz underwent surgery to repair the tendon and will likely be sidelined for the season, leaving the Mets with four tested high-leverage relievers in David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley and Drew Smith.
Robertson, based on experience, appears the most likely of the group to assume the closer role, but as a residual effect, the Mets will need other arms behind him.
“No one is going to replace Edwin, and we certainly didn’t want to replace Edwin. He is one of a kind,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “So we’re not asking guys to do anything more than they are capable of doing, and if we do that, we are going to be right where we want to be at the end, and the goal doesn’t change.”
Here’s a look at some of the relievers in their first camp with the Mets who are under consideration for major league jobs:
John Curtiss: Hefner is familiar with the right-hander from their time with the Twins.
Curtiss, 29, was signed last March — even as he was prepared to spend the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — as a low-risk, high-upside option.
“He’s an elite athlete, with a power fastball, power slider and an emerging changeup,” Hefner said. “Something we worked on in the offseason was the changeup, adding that to his repertoire just to give him a third option so he didn’t have to rely on the slider quite as much.”
Curtiss appeared in 41 games combined for the Marlins and Brewers in 2021 and pitched to a 3.45 ERA.
Jeff Brigham: The Mets acquired the right-hander in November in a trade with the Marlins that also brought Elieser Hernandez into the organization.
Brigham, 31, pitched to a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances for the Marlins last season.
“He’s got elite carry on the fastball and a nice sweeping slider,” Hefner said. “For him it’s getting ahead and being able to use his weapons. I think if he does that, he can have a lot of success.”
Jimmy Yacabonis: The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in his six appearances this spring.
He was brought to camp on a minor league deal after spending last season with the Marlins and Rays, for which he combined to pitch in 14 games and post an 8.36 ERA.
The 30-year-old Elizabeth, N.J., native was drafted by the Orioles during Buck Showalter’s managerial tenure in Baltimore.
“Yacabonis is kind of similar to Brigham in some ways with the big slider, but he throws a sinker instead of the four-seamer so it’s true east-west profile,” Hefner said. “With him it’s all about getting ahead and if he does that, he can use those extreme movements to his advantage.”
Zach Muckenhirn: Another Orioles draft pick while Showalter was in Baltimore, the 28-year-old lefty hasn’t allowed a run in six appearances this spring.
“He’s got a unique setup on the mound,” Hefner said. “He’s extreme first-base side, which you don’t see and it’s a high-carry four-seamer, he can throw it to lefties and righties and an emerging slider. He got up to 95 mph [on Thursday] so he is intriguing from that perspective. He’s a neutral splits guy, where he has the weapons to attack righties too. He’s not just a left-on-left guy.”
Stephen Ridings: The former Yankees reliever, 27, is rehabbing a shoulder injury and won’t appear in a game this spring.
The Mets could have a gem, if the right-hander can get healthy and stay there.
“He’s got some of the best stuff I have ever seen, just in terms of velocity and movement and deception and ability to spin the ball and breaking balls,” Hefner said. “It’s elite. It’s not about stuff, it’s availability. He’s been hurt over his career, but if he can make himself available he has the ceiling of a very good major league reliever.”
Elieser Hernandez: The right-hander, who arrived with Brigham from the Marlins, has struggled this spring, allowing seven earned runs over his last three outings.
The Mets have used Hernandez, 27, in multi-inning relief appearances.
“For him it’s not the strike-throwing ability, it’s the ability to get the ball out of the zone when he wants,” Hefner said. “He throws so many strikes. For him to generate some more swings and misses, expanding the zone when he does get ahead, is kind of where we are at with him.”
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