WASHINGTON -- Billy Wagner was scheduled to start, but got to close Thursday night for Double-A Binghamton as part of a two-game rehab assignment before rejoining New York on Sunday. Wagner threw 16 pitches in a three-up, three-down ninth in a 9-1 victory, striking out two and inducing a groundout.
Wagner has been out since Aug. 5 with a left forearm strain, and in his absence, the Mets' bullpen has struggled to find ways to close out tight ballgames.
Manager Jerry Manuel gave thought earlier in the week to several end-of-game options for his team following Aaron Heilman's blown save against the Pirates on Monday, including moving a starter like John Maine to the bullpen for a brief closing stint. However, the bullpen's body of work in Washington over the past three games may have persuaded its manager that no change will be necessary heading into a four-game series in Pittsburgh this weekend.
On Tuesday, Pedro Feliciano got a chance to close out a 4-3 game against the Nationals and retired all three batters he faced. Feliciano was also warming up in the Mets' bullpen in the ninth on Thursday when the Mets scored four ninth-inning runs to negate any save opportunity in a 9-3 win.
Overall, the Mets' relief corps threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts in a three-game sweep of the Nationals.
Still, if all goes as expected, Wagner will rejoin the Mets in Pittsburgh on Sunday night and be ready for their game on Monday against the Pirates. Manuel made it clear that Wagner will immediately go back to his closer's role upon returning to the Majors.
Wagner is scheduled to make one more rehab appearance in relief for Class A Short-Season Brooklyn on Saturday before rejoining the Mets.