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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Updated: July 20, 8:42 AM ET
Isringhausen ready to step up as closer

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The only other time Jason Isringhausen produced a save for the New York Mets, he tossed three innings in a 10-0 rout of the Montreal Expos. That was on July 6, 1999. Orel Hershiser was the starting pitcher for the Amazin's.

Last week's trade of Francisco Rodriguez left a vacancy in the closer's role, though. And while manager Terry Collins plans to offer Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato opportunities to close as well to audition for 2012, the 38-year-old Isringhausen received the first chance and breezed through the opportunity.

Izzy consecutively retired Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and David Freese to safeguard the Mets' 4-2 win against the St. Louis Cardinals and notch career save No. 294.

Jason Isringhausen
Isringhausen shut the door on the Cards Tuesday.

The fact that the opponent was the Cardinals, for whom Isringhausen produced 217 of those saves, was particularly meaningful.

"It was different tonight, because it was the Cardinals, just because I have so many ties over there," Isringhausen said. "But I get nervous every time I pitch. I was taking that same intensity into the eighth inning as I was into the ninth. I just reacted the same way."

Said Berkman: "He's good guy. And it's always great to see when somebody has been hurt -- down and out, if you will. Heck, he looked nasty to me. He hasn't lost anything on that curveball. He still has good pop on the fastball. To be honest with you, I was a little surprised. He looked as good as he ever did."

Isringhausen's last save had come on Aug. 1, 2008, for St. Louis.

His 12-year, 13-day gap between saves for the Mets is the seventh-longest duration between saves for a team in major league history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The record: Darren Oliver's 15-year, 271-day gap between saves for the Texas Rangers.

Isringhausen knew there was potential for save chances if the Mets traded Rodriguez, but he acknowledged he could not foresee the entire scenario unfolding as it has when he tried out for the team in spring training. Mets brass ultimately selected Blaine Boyer over Isringhausen for the final Opening Day bullpen spot, but team officials invited Izzy to remain in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to work out for up to two weeks. Isringhausen was summoned to the Mets on April 10.

Collins compared Isringhausen's story to Carlos Beltran's in that both had injury concerns in spring training and their abilities to contribute were in question.

"I'm thrilled to death," Collins said. "He's a guy very similar to Carlos. He starts out the year in extended spring. We weren't sure he was going to be healthy enough to make the club. Here he is closing for us now, and it's during some big times."

Of course, like Beltran, it's entirely possible Isringhausen may be traded before the July 31 deadline. Isringhausen's position is that he is perfectly happy as a Met.

"That's the last thing on my mind right now," Isringhausen said about a trade. "I just try to get through day to day. I talked to Terry a little bit today, and it's just, 'I'm happy here.' He knows that. [General manager] Sandy [Alderson] knows that. So we just leave it at that. I also know that if getting rid of me helps this team, then that's what they're going to do."

Isringhausen then added with a laugh: "But I don't know what they're going to get for me, so we'll just see what happens."

One motivation for Isringhausen to resume his career after a third Tommy John surgery was reaching the 300-save plateau.

"I want to give myself every shot to get it," he said. "Granted, I know guys have 600. But, for myself, 300 is a big number."

As for whether he could foresee this scenario playing out in spring training, he added: "No, I didn't envision it. All I was trying to do was just make a team and wanted to contribute any way I could. … We knew what might happen with Frankie. [But] tomorrow, you never know. I'll be ready when the phone rings. And so will Bobby. And so will Pedro. We'll just see what happens tomorrow."

Collins figures he will use multiple closers with K-Rod a Milwaukee Brewer. For one thing, there is a limit to how many straight days Isringhausen can be used at his age.

"Hopefully we get ourselves in a streak where we've got to use our closer three, four days in a row," Collins said. "And I think we will spread it around a little bit."