NEW YORK -- Since May 1, no pitcher in baseball has appeared in more games than Jeurys Familia (35), while few have enjoyed as much success (a 1.49 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks).
But all those accomplishments have come at a cost. Familia has spent much of this week nursing what he calls a "tired" arm, as manager Terry Collins grapples with the contrasting goals of preserving his most successful reliever while also winning as many games as possible.
"We've got to win," Collins said Thursday afternoon. "We're in situations where these are big games for us. We're very lucky that we have some good enough arms down there that we can give Jeurys last night off and still have him available for tonight."
Though Collins spent the early portion of this week fretting over Familia's recent velocity drop, he brought the right-hander into Tuesday's game at the first sign of trouble -- despite the Mets leading by seven runs with one out in the ninth. Familia complained of tenderness the next day, then again Thursday afternoon -- but said he was available to pitch if needed.
"My arm's been feeling a little tired," said Familia, who missed most of last season recovering from elbow surgery. "For me, this year is like my first year in the bullpen, because last year I started in the bullpen, but I was hurt all year. Maybe that's why I feel a little tired."
Still, a team infamous for bullpen workloads -- Pedro Feliciano led the Majors in appearances from 2007-10, and Scott Rice was on pace to do so last year before surgery interfered -- has no plans to curtail Familia's usage anytime soon. Other young assets have emerged in New York's bullpen, from closer Jenrry Mejia to right-hander Vic Black. But no one has duplicated the success of Familia, the Mets' closest thing to an All-Star snub.
"When I have other pieces, I'll stop using him," Collins said.