MIAMI -- Two winters ago, the Mets remade their bullpen within the span of two hours at the Winter Meetings, signing Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to free-agent contracts and trading for Ramon Ramirez. The result was a relief corps that spent most of the summer ranked last in the league in ERA, finishing 29th in the Majors.
So last winter, the Mets remade their bullpen yet again, replacing that trio with LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison, Brandon Lyon and Scott Rice.
The results have been nearly identical. Mets relievers hold a collective 5.35 ERA this season, 29th in the Majors ahead of only the Cardinals.
"Right now, you keep running them out there," manager Terry Collins said. "You keep picking your situations where you think they're going to have some success and get the guy out who's standing in the batter's box."
Closer Bobby Parnell has been exceptional, posting a 0.96 ERA with 10 strikeouts and one walk over 9 1/3 innings -- most of them in non-save situations. Rice has also been a pleasant surprise for the Mets despite his sky-high walk rate, while Hawkins, Atchison and Lyon have all had their moments.
But the bullpen's collective body of work has suffered. The Mets have already made several changes to the mix, sending Greg Burke and Josh Edgin to the Minors earlier this month and replacing them with Jeurys Familia and Robert Carson.
It has not helped the bullpen find its groove.
"When they make a mistake, there's some damage being done," Collins said. "The only thing you can do is continue to pick out your spots and get them in there."
NBA's Collins brave in eyes of Mets
MIAMI -- Nineteen-year big league veteran LaTroy Hawkins read Jason Collins' coming-out story Monday in Sports Illustrated, in which the NBA player became the first openly gay active male athlete in a major American professional sport. Hawkins found the piece so powerful that he read it a second time out loud to himself.
"Everybody knows somebody who's gay," said Hawkins, a Mets reliever. "If you can't deal with it in 2013, you need to go somewhere and hide in a cave."
That was largely the sentiment throughout the visitors' clubhouse in Miami, where Mets players were supportive of Collins' leap.
"If you can play the game, I don't care the color of your skin, sexual orientation, religion," third baseman David Wright said. "If you can play the game, come on in. Welcome. All that matters to me is you go out there and you can compete."
Baseball has yet to see an openly gay player at the Major League level, but Mets players said they would not be surprised to see one soon, particularly in the wake of Collins' story. When that day does come, those players predicted a similar wave of support.
"Obviously you applaud just how brave he must be to come out and make that announcement," Wright said. "I've never known anybody I've played with to judge anybody by the sexual orientation or the color of their skin or religion or anything right that. I'm sure he'll be accepted."