NEW YORK (AP) Searching for answers in a wobbly bullpen, the New York Mets optioned struggling right-hander Hansel Robles to Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday and recalled lefty Josh Smoker from their top farm club.
The move was a bit surprising because Robles had been a staple of New York's relief corps since being called up in April 2015 - and he was on an extended roll until falling apart just recently. He put together 12 consecutive scoreless outings from April 13 to May 10 before getting hit hard in his last three games, increasing his ERA from 1.42 to 6.23.
''We just thought it was time for him to go down and kind of work on a couple things,'' manager Terry Collins said. ''Right-hand hitters hit this guy way too hard for a guy with that kind of stuff, especially from his delivery angle. So, it just tells you he's leaving stuff on the inner half of the plate and we've got to get him to get the ball away.''
The 26-year-old Robles was 4-1 in 21 games but allowed four homers, 10 hits and 12 runs over 2 2/3 innings in his past three appearances. He gave up a three-run homer Sunday to Andrelton Simmons after the Mets had trimmed a nine-run deficit to four. They ended up losing 12-5 to the Los Angeles Angels for their eighth defeat in 10 games.
''The velocity's there. It's just that he's not locating his pitches,'' Collins said. ''He's got to start making some pitches. He's been here long enough now that we should start to be able to see better command of certainly his slider or his fastball.''
New York relievers ranked 28th in the majors with a 5.08 ERA going into Tuesday night's 9-3 victory against San Diego, including an 8.07 mark in the previous 10 games.
Smoker broke camp with the Mets and went 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in 15 outings before they sent him to Las Vegas on May 9. He made two starts for the 51s because New York wanted to stretch him out a bit and have Smoker work on using all his pitches.
He entered in relief of winner Matt Harvey to start the sixth inning Tuesday and gave up a home run to Ryan Schimpf on his first pitch.
In other news, the Mets were having about as positive a day health-wise as they've had in some time - until right fielder Jay Bruce left because of back tightness with New York leading 8-2 in the sixth. He said it was nothing serious and he expects to play Wednesday.
Veteran shortstop Jose Reyes returned to the lineup after getting scratched Sunday due to tightness in his left ribcage, and several players made minor league rehab appearances Tuesday night.
Left-hander Steven Matz (elbow inflammation) threw 78 pitches in a start for Triple-A Las Vegas at Round Rock. He gave up five runs and five hits - two homers - in four innings. Travis d'Arnaud (bruised right wrist) caught nine innings and went 0 for 4 in that game.
Right-hander Seth Lugo (elbow inflammation) made his second start for Class A St. Lucie at Bradenton and threw 62 pitches in three innings. He took the loss after allowing seven runs, six earned, and seven hits, including two homers.
Switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (sprained left thumb) had been slated to begin a rehab stint with Double-A Binghamton at Richmond, but that game was postponed by rain.
The closest to returning is probably d'Arnaud, who could be back quite soon, Collins said.
Star slugger Yoenis Cespedes (strained left hamstring) has been running and hitting, and hopefully will begin a rehab assignment in the next few days, Collins said.
Also, scuffling rookie Robert Gsellman (2-3, 6.75 ERA) will be re-inserted into the rotation Wednesday night against the Padres. The right-hander had his turn skipped last weekend and came out of the bullpen in his past two appearances.
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