Wagner dealing with dead arm

Wagner dealing with dead arm

NEW YORK -- Mets closer Billy Wagner considered playing a joke on the New York media following Saturday's 4-3 win over the Dodgers by wearing a sling on his left arm -- the same left arm that remained on the bench in a save situation -- around the clubhouse after the game.

An innocent prank, but its implications may not be so benign. Wagner was unavailable on Saturday with a dead arm, voluntarily excusing himself before the game from manager Willie Randolph's plans.

"It happens to everybody," Wagner said. "It's something that just kind of comes up, so you just take a day."

Or perhaps more than a day. Wagner said he wouldn't decide about his availability until he arrived at the park on Sunday, leaving open the possibility that he could miss several days.

He insisted that his control and velocity remained unchanged, but said that the benefits of rest far outweighed the benefits of pitching with the condition.

"I could go, but we've got guys in the bullpen who can go out there and do that job," Wagner said. "Once in a while, it's good to take a blow."

Aaron Heilman replaced Wagner as the closer, allowing a lone single before ending the game with a double play.

"It pretty much proves that our bullpen isn't one-dimensional," Wagner said. "They can do more than just pitch in their roles. It's not hard to be a closer. He went out there and did better than I would have done."

Nobody -- not Randolph, not Wagner -- told Heilman before the game that he would be the closer. But Wagner knew upon entering the ballpark that he wasn't going to pitch, and Heilman said he had an inkling that he would be tapped should a save situation arise.

He said he'll be ready for as long as he's needed, which, according to Wagner, could be a day or could be a week.

"You always want to be in those types of situations," Heilman said. "You want to be in games that you have the chance to win. That's why we're here. We're here to win."

There's been concern surrounding Wagner in recent days, ever since he ended July without allowing a single run. He allowed multiple hits in four of his first five August outings, the fifth of which marked his first blown save since June. This week, he's pitched three times, allowing at least one run in every game.

And since August began, opposing batters are hitting him at a .354 clip.

Wagner had pitched in two straight games entering Saturday's play, and three of the team's last four. That included a non-save situation on Friday night, after which Wagner said that he hadn't particularly wanted to pitch.

"I didn't need to come in [with] a four-run lead," Wagner said after allowing a run to close that gap to three. "It's one of those situations where if they're a grand slam out, I'm going to be in the game. We've done that all year long, and you expect that.

"I don't like being in there, it's just that I have to be in there."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.