So while Billy Wagner was deemed unavailable for Tuesday night's game against the Phillies -- and Manuel did admit he might subconsciously manage starter Johan Santana a bit differently if his All-Star closer was not able to pitch -- the Mets' manager isn't afraid to put a reliever like Duaner Sanchez into the ninth-inning role.
In fact, Manuel is more than pleased with the scenario.
"Duaner is a guy who has a tremendous makeup for that particular role," Manuel said. "I have no hesitation about that. His makeup is really off the charts."
Wagner's left shoulder has no structural damage, making a scenario where Sanchez becomes the permanent closer unlikely, but the Mets' eighth-inning reliever would certainly be the No. 1 option. Sanchez's fastball isn't reaching the 94-mph range after surgery to repair a fracture in his coracoid bone (shoulder) -- which forced him to miss the entire 2007 season -- but Manuel has still been impressed enough with his middle reliever to stick him further down the back end of a game.
During the Mets' series in Cincinnati, Sanchez appeared in two games, striking out three in three scoreless innings. He consistently worked in a slider to go with his 90-mph fastball.
"Just like anybody else, I'd like to see that 94 [mph]," Manuel joked.
And even if Sanchez is the closer for a day or two, he'll be part of a "mash" that Manuel said could include other relievers, such as Aaron Heilman, because the Mets' manager is confident his other non-starters can handle the pressure of that final inning.
"A lot of those guys have pitched in those situations," Manuel said. "Obviously, they haven't gotten that last out, but they have saved some games for us in the eighth and seventh inning."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less