Familia has become a formidable reliever

Familia has become a formidable reliever

PITTSBURGH -- Jeurys Familia's turnaround from an erratic, power-throwing arm into a shutdown setup man has earned high praise from Mets manager Terry Collins.

"I've been around a lot of guys, a lot of young pitchers, I don't think I've ever seen that big of a step forward," Collins said of the 24-year-old Dominican righty. "They get comfortable, obviously. … There was a time in April you were wondering if he'd stick here. And all he's done now is put himself in a position where every close game, he has to be in the game."

Familia had Collins and the rest of the coaching staff contemplating if he could remain in the Majors after he gave up five runs (four earned) in his first four appearances and was charged with a loss in two of them.

But as the season has progressed, so has Familia.

He's surrendered just one earned run in his last 12 outings -- a span of 13 innings -- entering Sunday. He had 12 strikeouts, one walk, a 0.69 ERA, a 0.615 WHIP and opponents hit .156 with a .391 OPS against him in that stretch. On top of that, Familia's last nine innings have been scoreless and he's lowered his ERA to 2.18 after it was 5.19 on April 25.

"Right now, [the coaching staff], they trust me," Familia said. "Every time I go in there, I try to do the best I can, do my job."

On Saturday, Familia held a two-run advantage for the Mets with perfect innings in the seventh and eighth, and he did so with just 12 pitches, nine of which were strikes. In 38 appearances this season, Familia has issued 15 walks, but just five of those have come in his last 22 games. Collins said his command has made a "huge difference."

"When you have that kind of power arm, everybody wants you to strike people out," Collins said. "They love the strikeout. I think he's understanding the kind of pitcher he is. … There's so much movement on his fastball, he's going to get ground balls, there's not going to be solid contact. The game is going to go a lot easier with those two-pitch outs."

In the past three weeks, Familia and fellow reliever Jenrry Mejia have become a formidable 1-2 punch at the back of the Mets' bullpen. In his last seven games, Mejia has given up only one run in 8 1/3 innings. Mejia has also had his share of struggles this season, but he and Familia have a combined 0.98 ERA since June 10, and the Mets are hoping it's a trend that continues.

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