ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mets have officially reworked their bullpen hierarchy, reducing Jon Rauch's role in it.
Rauch will no longer be the team's dedicated setup man, manager Terry Collins said prior to Tuesday's opener against the Rays. Instead, Bobby Parnell will continue to see increased eighth-inning opportunities, with Miguel Batista sliding into a more high-leverage job. Of the seven members of the bullpen, only closer Frank Francisco still has a set role.
"We're going to take a look at some options we have," Collins said, referring to a conversation he had Monday with pitching coach Dan Warthen. "Dan and I talked quite extensively on the bullpen and where we've got to fit guys and where guys might be. There are no given guys now in any certain roles except for Frankie right now."
That marks a significant departure from the beginning of the season, when Collins slotted Francisco, Rauch and Ramon Ramirez firmly into the ninth, eighth and seventh innings, respectively. But with Ramirez on the disabled list and Rauch struggling mightily, Collins will now entrust most of his key outs to Parnell and Batista, along with lefty specialist Tim Byrdak.
Rauch, who has given up runs in three of his last four outings, now sports an 8.36 ERA dating back to April 29. He insisted his recent struggles have had nothing to do with the right elbow discomfort that sidelined him last week, calling his health "a non-issue."
"It's going to be more beneficial for the team to have those guys who are pitching well to be in those late-game situations," Rauch said, "until I can get back on track and hopefully earn my role back."
After serving up Russell Martin's walk-off homer Sunday at Yankee Stadium, Rauch re-tweeted several profanity-laced messages directed at his Twitter account, saying Tuesday that he wanted fans to be accountable for their words.
"It's entertainment to me," Rauch said. "But it's funny to me that people think they can take it that far with no consequences. It's interesting for me to be approached with that kind of language. If you're going to be bold enough to say that kind of stuff and stand behind it, then I'm going to let everybody see it. I think it gives people a lot more insight as to what we go through as players and as people in the public eye."