NEW YORK -- When Jeurys Familia returned from right shoulder surgery last month, the Mets announced their intentions to ease him back into the closer's role. Though interim closer AJ Ramos was an experienced ninth-inning man, the working assumption around Flushing was, eventually, the job would default back to Familia.
More than two weeks into his return, Familia still has not reclaimed his old role. And with just three weeks left in the season, he doesn't appear close to doing so. Pitching for the second time in two days during Sunday's 10-5 loss to the Reds, Familia allowed the go-ahead runs on Tucker Barnhart's reviewed two-run double in the eighth inning, bloating his ERA to 7.88 since surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder.
"My arm, I don't feel tired," Familia said. "But at the same time, I think like I'm trying too much."
Entering in the eighth inning with the game tied at 5, Familia allowed a leadoff single to Eugenio Suarez, before recording one of his two outs on a sacrifice bunt. Following an intentional walk of Scott Schebler, Familia caught too much plate with a 94-mph sinker to Barnhart, who redirected it to deep center field for a two-run double.
Familia induced a flyout from the next batter, then walked two batters in a row, his velocity sitting at 93 mph -- roughly 3 miles per hour less than what he averaged before surgery.
Familia allowed two runs on two hits and three walks, one day after pitching a perfect eighth in the Mets' 6-1 win.
"He was absolutely brilliant [Saturday]," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He just didn't have the same command, really, more than anything else. Velocity was OK until the last few hitters, until you could tell he was getting fatigued. We're at the stage where we're trying to figure out some things. We found out that he's not ready to go back-to-back."
The ability to pitch on consecutive days is a prerequisite for a big league closer, many of whom are conditioned to pitch three days in a row. Familia himself often did so from 2015-16, when he posted a 2.20 ERA with 94 saves to establish himself as one of baseball's best closers.
Though surgery cost Familia his job, he is likely to receive another crack at it in Spring Training. But if Familia does not prove that his velocity has returned, it could ultimately be difficult for the Mets to turn away from Ramos, who has converted all seven of his save chances since the Mets acquired him at the end of July. Like Familia, Ramos has been one of the game's best closers the past two seasons. Like Familia, he says he's happy in any role.
Yet, only one can be the closer. For now, Familia is making the Mets' decision easy.
"Working my way back to closing? I'm just trying to get to the point I've always been, at 100 percent," Familia said. "I've got to keep working on my delivery, and then we'll see what happens."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.