Billy Wagner Eyeing an Early Return: Where Will He Fit Into the Bullpen?

Wendy AdairAnalyst IApril 9, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 24:  Billy Wagner #13 of the New York Mets pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 24, 2008 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Phillies 3-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Billy Wagner is working hard in Port St Lucie Florida getting ready to become activated on the Mets roster in either late July or early August after having Tommy John elbow surgery last season.  Wagner was originally not anticipated to be activated until at least late August.

The Mets' bullpen woes, especially the lack of a reliable closer last year, prompted Omar Minaya to acquire both a closer in K-Rod and a set up man in JJ Putz.  The Mets had 29 blown saves in 2008, which were pivotal in making sure that they did not reach the postseason.

So far both acquisitions have proved to be brilliant and the late inning bullpen sitiuation finally seems to be stabilized.

When Wagner is able to return from the Disabled List, Jerry Manuel will have some tough choices in how to balance Wagner's return and to best utilize his new set up and closer. 

By the time that Wagner is expected to return, both Rodriguez and Putz will hopefully have had successful seasons and will have the Queens faithful relaxed going into the 8th and 9th innings with a lead.

During Billy Wagner's playing time last season, he was brought in on a few occasions in the eighth inning to get the final out and did come back out and pitch the 9th inning, this four-out closing situation did not sit well with Wagner.

Wagner has made it clear that he is determined to prove himself worthy to be the Mets closer again and the fact that the fans have had good reason to embrace Rodriguez as the established closer has to be very unsettling.

It is fairly certain that Wagner will retire at the end of 2009, depending on if the Mets do make it to the postseason.  His willingness to help his teammates reach their goals is admirable, but he is outspoken and can appear to be very self-centered. 

The fact that most fans are of the "take your time Billy, we  have our closer" attitude will further motivate him to push himself into a fast return.

Billy Wagner is well compensated and should be content to pitch in whatever situation that Jerry Manuel feels is appropriate and this should be communicated to Wagner so that there is no confusion on who has what role in the bullpen.