In-depth: Payday coming for Pedro

August, 17, 2010
Barring a trade, Jose Reyes will be a Met in 2011 -- either via the organization picking up his $11 million option or an extension superceding that agreement. There is no such assurance for Pedro Feliciano, who has been the most durable reliever, left-handed or otherwise, in Major League Baseball the past three seasons.

Feliciano, who is making $2.9 million this season, is due to be a free agent for the first time this offseason. Both sides have pledged to hold off on any contract discussions until after the season.

“We’re going to wait,” Feliciano said.

Just how much of a workhorse has Feliciano been?

He set the franchise record for relief appearances in 2008 with 86. He topped his own mark last season with 88. And this season he already has made a league-high 65 appearances, which is on pace for 89.

Over the past three seasons, Feliciano’s 239 relief appearances are No. 1 in the majors by a wide margin. The runners-up: Carlos Marmol (215), Matt Guerrier (210), Aaron Heilman (200), Dennys Reyes (200) and Francisco Rodriguez (199).

The last pitcher to lead the majors in relief appearances three straight years, which Feliciano can do if he’s again No. 1 this year, was Steve Kline from 1999 to 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

It’s because of that workload, a Mets official said, that the organization did not pursue a long-term deal with Feliciano last offseason that would have included buying out the southpaw’s final arbitration-eligible season in 2010.

The logic was that the Mets, as a New York team, would be able to wait to ensure Feliciano remained healthy and productive while not risking being outbid for Feliciano’s services the following year because of their big-market bankroll.

Now, however, the question becomes: Will the Mets commit the dollars required to keep him? After all, recent lefty specialist contracts have been pricey. And the Mets may not spend lavishly this winter.

ESPN’s Mark Simon compiled this list of recent left-handed comparables from the past couple of offseasons:

John Grabow, two years, $7.5 million, Chicago Cubs
Darren Oliver, one year, $3.5 million, Texas Rangers; and one year, $3.655 million, Los Angeles Angels
Damaso Marte, three years, $12 million, Yankees
Jeremy Affeldt, two years, $8 million, San Francisco Giants
Alan Embree, one year, $2.25 million, Colorado Rockies
Arthur Rhodes, two years, $4 million, Cincinnati Reds
Joe Beimel, one year, $2 million, Washington Nationals

How has Feliciano fared against the National League’s top lefty hitters?

Simon notes Ryan Howard is 5-for-32 against Feliciano with two walks. Chase Utley is 8-for-32 against him with 13 strikeouts, although the matchup has run hot and cold. Last year, for instance, Utley was 4-for-8 against Feliciano.

Brian McCann (9-for-25) and Adam Dunn (8-for-25) are actually two players who wear out Feliciano. Then again, San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez is 3-for-15 with eight strikeouts. Philadelphia’s Raul Ibanez is 2-for-13. Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder is 1-for-8. And in the Subway Series, Robinson Cano also is 1-for-8.

Has Feliciano slowed with his heavy three-season workload? This season, opponents had a .289 batting average against Feliciano in the first half. They were hitting .341 against him in the second half entering Monday’s appearance in a 3-1 win at Houston.

“Not really,” Feliciano said about the workload affecting his performance. “I just got lost a little bit with my mechanics. I was flying open. Now, lately, I’ve been working with [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] and getting my rhythm again and I feel better.”

Feliciano believes he can be successful against right-handed batters, too, although Jerry Manuel backed off using Feliciano as much more than a lefty specialist after midseason struggles in full-inning, crossover roles that included right-handed batters.

“I know I’ve been struggling with the righties,” Feliciano said. “But if you see some of the base hits -- groundball through the hole, groundball through the hole. At some point that’s going to change and they’re going to hit it at somebody.”

If Feliciano ultimately ends up elsewhere, how do the Mets fill that void? After all, the Mets have been searching for years for a capable second lefty in their bullpen to pair with Feliciano to no avail. They have flopped with high-priced items including Scott Schoeneweis (three years, $10.8 million) as well as a litany of lower-ticket lefties: Dae-Sung Koo, Ken Takahashi, Royce Ring, Ricardo Rincon, Willie Collazo, Casey Fossum and Felix Heredia.

Feliciano, by one measure, actually is the longest-tenured Met.

He was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in August 2002 in a deal that shipped out Shawn Estes. After making his major league debut Sept. 4 as a Met, Feliciano was lost off waivers to the Detroit Tigers that offseason. Detroit, though, released him later in the winter and Feliciano re-signed with the Mets.

He made 22 appearances for the Mets in 2004, and learned to drop down to his current arm slot under the advisement of then-pitching coach Rick Peterson.

Ironically given his heavy current usage, Feliciano went unused for such a long period of time during that season by manager Art Howe, when the southpaw finally got in a game, he developed a blister and had to be shut down.

Feliciano pitched in 2005 for Fukuoka in Japan before truly establishing himself as one of baseball’s premier left-handed specialists the following season as the Mets advanced to within a game of the World Series.

Adam Rubin’s ‘In-depth’ look at the Mets will appear selected Tuesdays during the season

Adam Rubin

ESPN Staff Writer
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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Jacob deGrom
15 3.53 239 201
BAA. Cabrera .280
HRJ. Bruce 29
RBIJ. Bruce 75
RJ. Reyes 75
OPSA. Cabrera .785
ERAJ. deGrom 3.53
SOJ. deGrom 239