Jerry Manuel is managing scared, and in doing so he's only making a bad situation worse.
Look, if there's anything that the first five months of the 2008 season has taught us, it is that the Mets' bullpen isn't very good. Mets fans have gotten spoiled in the last few years, so despite the way they may be feeling about their relievers they really don't remember what it's like to have a truly bad bullpen. But it's safe to say that, as currently constructed, this bullpen is in the lower half of the National League and certainly isn't of a playoff team's caliber.
The bullpen is a weakness, but Manuel isn't helping by showing absolutely no faith in his relievers. He has kicked the mixing and matching into high gear over the last 10 days, even with relievers who are not specialists by nature. It's fine to use pitchers like Scott Schoenweis and Pedro Feliciano as specialists, but at some point you have to show enough faith in your other relievers to get the outs they need to get out of the inning.
It's gotten to the point that every time a reliever comes in, there's another one already in the bullpen warming up. That's no way for a reliever to gain confidence and leads to a natural tendency to press. What's more, it tires out relievers who, even if they don't get into the game, never get a day or two to fully rest their arms.
Today's win was very nice, especially since the bullpen combined to put up four scoreless frames. Even so, with a 6-2 lead in the ninth inning, Manuel had Luis Ayala warming up behind Brian Stokes. All Stokes had done to that point was to allow a leadoff single and then run a 3-1 count on Alfredo Amezaga. It wasn't a great start, but you have to believe that a major league reliever can nevertheless get out of this situation without giving up four runs.
The Mets will begin the month of September with a one-game lead over the Phillies. Help clearly is not on the way, even though it was announced during the game that the Mets were calling up nine more players (including four relievers) when the rosters expand tomorrow. It's hard to imagine Manuel isn't going to look at the new arms as a fresh troop of reinforcements, ready to be plugged right into the situational matchups that call for them. But if Manuel continues to over-manage, he's going to wear out the Mets' bullpen in the same fashion the former manager did last season.
No one wants to see a repeat of that.