Omar holdovers buoy late innings for Mets

PITTSBURGH -- The Mets began the season with Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth as their late-inning options. Now, they have a playoff-caliber tandem at the back end with Omar Minaya-era holdovers Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia.

lastname Mejia

lastname Familia The duo retired all nine batters they faced to secure the Mets’ 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. They needed a combined 20 pitches to produce three scoreless innings.

“What we’ve got to do is get them the lead and let those two guys go out there and finish it off, because they’ve been really, really impressive,” Terry Collins said.

Mejia, of course, began the season in the rotation.

As for Familia, who has an upper-90s fastball with heavy sink, Collins confessed that he wondered early this season whether the setup man would end up in the minors because of his inability to throw strikes. Familia issued six walks and had a .391 opponent on-base percentage in 9 2/3 innings in April. This month, he has issued only one walk in 13 innings, has a 0.69 ERA and has a .156 opponent batting average.

“I’m going to tell you, I have been around a lot of young pitchers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that big a step forward,” Collins said. “... There was a time in April you wanted to know if he was going to be able to stick here. All he’s done now is put himself in a position where every close game he’s got to be in the game. He’s got to pitch seven, eight or nine in those close games.”

Familia said he always had confidence. He said he particularly was helped pitching in winter ball, when he got veteran tutelage from Antonio Bastardo of the Philadelphia Phillies and Joel Peralta of the Tampa Bay Rays.

“This is my second time in the bullpen. Last year I was hurt,” Familia said. “This year I started pitching in winter ball early in the Dominican and I was around some veteran guys. I came to spring training and had some veteran guys talk to me, too. Right now, Ricky Bones and Dan [Warthen] and T.C., they trust me. And every time I go in there I just try to do the best I can.”