It appears we have a new twist in the race for the final spot in the New York Mets bullpen.
After speculation for the past few weeks about who will get the coveted 25th spot on the Mets roster between right-handers Blaine Boyer and Jason Isringhausen, the Mets are reportedly pulling out all the stops in an attempt to keep both of them.
According to David Waldstein of the New York Times, the Mets have asked Jason Isringhausen to remain in Port St. Lucie for extended spring training for a week or two in order to build more arm strength.
Isringhausen has not pitched more than 43 innings in a season since 2007, and the Mets want reassurance that his arm will be durable enough to last a full season if they bring him north.
Isringhausen had reportedly been against the idea of staying back in extended spring training but is considering the possibility. Although he was signed to a minor-league deal after a tryout, he will either retire or ask for his release if the Mets attempt to send him to Triple-A Buffalo.
The 38-year-old righty has been one of the best stories in camp, as he attempts to make a comeback from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
If Izzy accepts the Mets idea to stay back for a week or so, that means the Mets will be able to carry an extra pitcher on their active roster when they break camp and begin the regular season on April 1st.
That could very well mean that Blaine Boyer is safe, and the Mets will delay their decision on who to keep for at least another week, hoping the surplus sorts itself out.
However, this story has one more M. Night Shyamalan twist.
Sources also say that the Mets have had internal discussions about asking Boyer to accept a minor-league assignment so they can stash him in the minors and open up a roster spot for Manny Acosta.
The Mets have not yet formally asked Boyer to do this, but it would be a bold move. Boyer has pitched lights-out all spring, but can opt out of his contract on Thursday and become a free agent.
If the Mets want to keep Boyer, they either have to give him the final bullpen spot or take a big risk and call Boyer's bluff that he won't opt out and try to latch on with another team after Opening Day.
Personally, I think it would be somewhat of a heist if the Mets are able to stash Boyer in the minor leagues and keep him waiting in the wings as depth. He's pitched like a major league reliever, and I don't think it's far-fetched that he could find another team immediately.
Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog thinks that the Mets might be justified in asking Boyer to stick around:
"As for Boyer, let’s be honest, he can leave, but where is he going? At this point, after weeks of camp, most teams likely have their rosters set, or at least have a plan and people in place. So, if he leaves, he’s likely walking in to the exact same situation he’s in now. At least here, with the Mets, he knows they are fans of his, and know what he’s about."
I'll say this: There's no harm in asking. I'd expect the Mets to speak with Boyer as early as Tuesday morning to discuss their plans with him.
If Boyer accepts a minor-league assignment, that would allow the Mets to hold onto right-hander Manny Acosta, who is out of options and would be exposed to waivers if he does not make the team.
I have contended all spring that Acosta would likely not make the team, and the Mets evidently do not think he'll clear waivers—otherwise, they would have placed him on waivers earlier today with Nick Evans, Luis Hernandez and Pat Misch.
If Boyer does accept a minor-league assignment and Isringhausen stays behind in extended spring training, that would allow the Mets to keep all three of them, at least for another week, as Isringhausen fine-tunes his game.
The Mets clearly like Izzy, as he would bring experience and leadership to the table. The former two-time All-Star closer has looked reborn this spring, even touching 92 mph in his last outing.
Buckle your seatbelts Mets fans—this is about to get crazy. Or at least, as crazy as a battle for the final bullpen spot on a major league baseball team could get.