NEW YORK -- Hansel Robles' struggles came on suddenly and without warning. But they quickly grew deep enough for the Mets to make a change in their bullpen, optioning Robles to Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday. The team recalled left-hander Josh Smoker to take Robles' place.
In his last three relief outings, Robles allowed 12 runs over 2 2/3 innings, bloating his ERA from 1.42 to 6.23. That came after a run of 12 consecutive scoreless appearances for the right-hander.
"When he was going through his good streak, he was locating everything," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He was locating his slider. He was locating his fastball to both sides of the plate. And right now, he's doing neither."
The Mets hope that at Las Vegas, Robles can improve in much the same way Smoker did. When the second-year lefty went through a similar rough patch earlier this season, the Mets optioned him to the Minors to stretch out as a starter -- not because they thought he had a future in the rotation, but because they believed it would force him to stop relying so heavily on his four-seam fastball.
Both Collins and Smoker said the results -- one earned run over 8 2/3 innings with Vegas -- were evidence that he took the lesson to heart.
"Honestly, you want to be in the big leagues as long as you can -- 15 years, 20 years, you want to be there as long as you can," Smoker said. "But I think it was good for me. I wasn't disappointed. I tried to go at it with an open mindset, and really try to go down there with a goal in mind, and that was just to improve all my stuff. I think I did that for the most part. The biggest thing was it was just a way for me to clear my mind and start fresh again."
Prior to his demotion, Smoker pitched in 15 games for the Mets, compiling a 7.88 ERA with 10 walks and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings. There is a chance the Mets could use Smoker heavily in Saturday's game against the Pirates, perhaps even starting him in place of struggling veteran Tommy Milone. But Smoker's primary role will be as a reliever.
To that end, Smoker entered Tuesday's game in the sixth inning, allowing a home run to Ryan Schimpf before retiring the next three batters in order -- two via strikeout.
"I'm really excited," Smoker said. "I missed these guys a lot. I'm here to pitch in the big leagues. That's what everybody's goal is. That's what everybody's dream is. So to be back up here is really all I can ask for."