What's Your Language?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Isringhausen is getting closer to landing a spot on roster

With each successful Grapefruit League appearance, Jason Isringhausen is getting closer to a spot in the Mets’ opening-day bullpen.

Isringhausen threw a scoreless inning Friday in the Mets’ 10-0 victory over the Marlins and lowered his spring ERA to 1.80. A comeback that seemed unlikely when he signed with the Mets after a tryout Feb. 15 is inching closer to reality.

Isringhausen’s first pitch was a fastball clocked at 93 miles per hour, which, he said, probably won’t get any faster. With 293 career saves, he doesn’t need to prove he knows how to pitch. He needs to prove he can stay healthy. And not just to the Mets.

Isringhausen, 38, who broke in with the Mets as a starter in 1995, last pitched in the majors in 2009 — only eight games with the Rays before undergoing Tommy John surgery. While healing, he wasn’t sure whether he was going to try to play again this season.

Isringhausen has reached out to several of those players as a mentor, a notion that would have seemed inconceivable to anyone who knew him back in the hard-charging mid-1990s, when he was part phenom, part court jester.

Any one of the escapades and misadventures early in his career would be the stuff of legend for many players. For Isringhausen, they were just mileposts along the winding path of his 14-year major league career.

Now Isringhausen sits with his back to his locker, often in an almost grandfatherly pose, hands on his knees, looking at teammates. They are all younger than he is, and most of them are not as talented as he once was nor as wild, but many are drawn to him.

Over the past few weeks he has spoken to Ike Davis about pitch selection and has shown John Lujan how to throw his signature knuckle curve. He has also taken a special interest in Mike Pelfrey, prodding him to be more assertive as a leader.

“I told him, ‘Hey, show me how,’ ” Pelfrey said. “I really hope he makes the team because he brings a lot of leadership.”

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