ST. LOUIS -- Don't dampen the hype. Don't believe the cynics. These two series against the Cardinals and Phillies hold some extra weight, and the Mets full well know it.
Their player-personnel strategies are even hinging on that knowledge.
Well aware of the importance of eight straight games against the Cardinals and Phillies -- leaders of the National League Wild Card and the NL East, respectively -- the Mets decided to temporarily proceed with an extra pitcher and one less hitter on their roster. That's why the team designated first baseman Andy Phillips for assignment following Monday's game, rather than optioning reliever Carlos Muniz back to Triple-A New Orleans. With seven more critical games to go, the Mets wanted their bullpen as fresh as possible.
"It's an important four-game series after this one," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "And [the Cardinals] are a good team, so you want to have those guys fresh."
It's a temporary measure, which will likely last until Moises Alou can return from the disabled list -- perhaps as soon as this weekend. But it should allow the Mets, at the very least, to enter Philadelphia with every key member of their bullpen fresh.
Barring a series of close games against St. Louis, the Mets will now have little reason to turn to Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez and others on consecutive nights.
"Its keeps us from over-taxing anybody," Ricco said. "Muniz can eat up innings, rather than using Sanchez and [Pedro] Feliciano, and then they'd have to pitch again."
Muniz, for his part, said he expected to be sent down following Monday's game, when he pitched two innings for the Mets out of the bullpen. He remains the leading candidate to head back to Triple-A once Alou returns, though the Mets could decide to designate Tuesday's starter, Tony Armas, instead. But first, they'd like to see Armas pitch.
"We'll have to make some decisions after that," manager Jerry Manuel said,
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.