NEW YORK -- Entering the season, the Mets knew Jeurys Familia would miss the majority of April due to suspension. But they felt comfortable that Addison Reed, a former closer for the White Sox and D-backs, could fill Familia's role for two-plus weeks. They likewise felt confident that Hansel Robles, now 26 years old and coming off consecutive strong seasons, would fill in successfully behind Reed.
"We thought that was going to work because of what he's accomplished the last couple years here," manager Terry Collins said of Robles. "It just didn't work. I don't know why. He just didn't make pitches."
Added Collins: "We were pretty frustrated."
The Mets ultimately sent Robles and his 6.23 ERA to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he struggled some more before cleaning things up in recent weeks. As a reward, the Mets recalled Robles on Monday, optioning fellow right-hander Chasen Bradford to Las Vegas. It did not work out quite as they planned; Robles served up a three-run homer to Tommy Pham on his second pitch, playing a notable role in the Mets' 6-3 loss to the Cardinals.
As recently as the start of July, Robles held an 8.10 ERA at Triple-A, with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. But over his final five outings there, he struck out six, walked two and allowed two hits in 6 2/3 scoreless innings -- a turnaround that he says was more mental than physical.
"I was a little frustrated, knowing that I was at this level and then having to go back down there," Robles said through an interpreter. "Pitchers sometimes will go through that, where they get a little bit lost like that. I think you have highs and you have lows, and that was a low for me. I try to just get past that, and I'm glad to be back."
Until he proves that he is worthy of Collins' trust, however, Robles will remain limited to middle-innings work. He entered Monday's game with two men on base and the Mets trailing, 3-1. Robles promptly left a 94-mph fastball up in the zone, allowing Pham's homer to put the game all but out of reach.
"I don't want to force-feed him yet," Collins said of Robles' role. "I want to make sure that he shows us, at this level, he can continue to do the things he did in Vegas. And if he does, I'm sure he'll earn that job back."