Jeurys Familia rejoined the Mets on Thursday, returning to Citi Field as a member of the team’s active roster for the first time since last Oct. 5, when he surrendered a three-run, ninth-inning home run to Conor Gillaspie that gave the San Francisco Giants the victory in the National League wild-card game.
Many Mets fans left the ballpark that night frustrated and deflated and questioning Familia’s ability to close out postseason games. During the 2015 World Series, after all, Familia had three blown saves, although some of that was attributable to bad luck and bad fielding.
A lot has changed for Familia since that night. That is because he missed the first 15 games of this season while serving a suspension under Major League Baseball’s new domestic-violence policy.
Although Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded that Familia did not assault his wife or threaten anyone with physical harm in connection with an incident last Oct. 31, he did find that Familia was guilty of “inappropriate” conduct that night.
Familia has acknowledged acting in an “unacceptable manner,” although he has been adamant that he never physically harmed or threatened his wife.
Under the ban, Familia was allowed to take part in spring training, and in the World Baseball Classic, and on Thursday he rejoined a Mets club whose bullpen has taken on a battered look and can surely use the fresh arm that Familia, normally the team’s closer, will provide.
In a brief session with reporters before the Mets took on the Philadelphia Phillies, Familia did not seem worried about what kind of reception he might receive from fans once he got back on the mound.
“I don’t think that’s really going to affect me,” Familia said. “I’ve been really around, at this point, for 10 years, and I know how to control my emotions. I’m really just worried about going out there and doing my job. I’m able to block all of that out.”
For his teammates, his return had a just-in-the-nick-of-time feel.
“It’s great to have Jeurys back,” outfielder Juan Lagares said. “He’s probably one of the best closers in the game. That’s going to be good for us, the team.”
Asked about Familia’s suspension, Lagares paused for a few moments. “What can I say about that?” he finally answered. “Nobody knows for real what happened. Like I said, now he’s back, and that’s all that matters right now.”
As Familia returned, pitcher Rafael Montero was optioned to Class AAA Las Vegas. The Mets also optioned reliever Sean Gilmartin so they could recall catcher Kevin Plawecki from Las Vegas.
Plawecki’s arrival served as insurance for Travis d’Arnaud, who left Wednesday’s game after injuring his right hand hitting the bat of the Phillies’ Aaron Altherr while attempting to throw out a runner.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said d’Arnaud was available to play Thursday, but the same was not true for first baseman Lucas Duda, who left Wednesday’s game with a hyperextended left elbow after he collided with Cesar Hernandez on a play at first.
Collins did not know how long Duda would be unavailable. Surprisingly, Jay Bruce replaced Duda at first because Wilmer Flores had been ruled out with an infection in one of his joints. Bruce, who is off to a hot start as a hitter this season, has little experience playing first, but his presence there does open up more room in the outfield, where the Mets are trying to find Michael Conforto sufficient playing time.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Familia cannot play first base or catch, but he can help out an overtaxed bullpen that has been on the losing end of a bunch of close games in recent days. Collins indicated a desire to get Familia into action as soon as possible. His suspension over, it was time for him to get hitters out.
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