A humbled, yet confident Jeurys Familia is ready for the big October stage

Jeurys Familia 1 slice

Andrew HartsThe Mets are playoff bound for the first time since 2006. That’s still almost hard to believe.

The Mets have gotten so many key contributions from their roster, from players who have been with the club all year to the new arrivals GM Sandy Alderson acquired in late July for what has really been an incredible run towards October.

Many of their homegrown stars – mainly their starting pitching – have gotten the bulk of the attention from the media and industry as a whole, some of which are becoming household names.

But one of their quiet stars and most underrated players has been closer Jeurys Familia.

Familia was always believed to eventually be this team’s closer, perhaps as soon as 2015 even with a healthy and active Jenrry Mejia on the staff. But nobody – not even Familia – expected him to be the closer right out of the gate.

But Following Mejia’s arm injury and initial PED suspension in mid-April, that time came for Familia, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Jeurys Familia 1 slice“I think the help Ricky Bones and Dan Warthen give me everyday, and the veteran guys too, they’ve been everything to me,” Familia told JustMets in Philadelphia this week. “They’ve helped me a lot. They always talked to me about confidence, and if I had the confidence I could do whatever I want.

“That’s what I do now,” Familia continued. “Everytime I go into pitch, I just trust myself. It doesn’t matter what happens in the game – the next day I came with a different mind to try and keep doing my job.”

And he has done his job, to say the least.

In 74 games, Familia has a 1.88 ERA with 42 saves in 2015. It’s the third best save total in all of baseball and one short of tying Armando Benitez for the single-season franchise record.

He has a 2.7 bWAR on the season, the fifth-best on the club. He has arguably been the team’s most valuable player and unquestionably their savior in a very volatile bullpen in 2015.

Part of Familia’s evolution as a closer has been the development of a split-fingered fastball. But while it was believed to be something he recently developed, Familia said he’s had this pitch in his arsenal since 2013.

“Ive been working on the pitch for two years,” Familia explained. “I just didn’t throw it in the game because I didn’t feel comfortable throwing it. During the year, I saw it get better and better in the bullpen, and I said, ‘I’ve got to throw this pitch, I think it’s going to work.’”

Kevin Long, Jeurys FamiliaIt has indeed worked for Familia. Of the 77 split-fingers Familia has thrown in 2015, he has induced 25 swings-and-misses. The opposition has hit .125 off his splitter as well.

“Dan Warthen and Ricky Bones always told me, ‘you’ve got to throw that pitch because everybody knows I throw a sinker and slider.’ I said, ‘Ok,’” Familia said about his splitter.

Familia probably should’ve deserved a spot on the National League All-Star Game roster but that never got him down.

Given his profound success in what was his unexpected new role, it was only fitting he was on the mound last Saturday for the final out as the Mets clinched the National League East division title.

And it was a special moment for the 25-year-old.

“Oh man, for me, I have no words about how special I felt that day to get the last out, and go into the playoffs,” Familia said smiling. “It’s amazing to me – I’ve never felt like that in a game.”

Just like most of the Mets, Familia is ready for the spotlight of the postseason. But how he’s gone about his business may truly represent the 2015 club as a whole.

He was the guy that everyone ultimately expected big things from, but like the Mets, he surprised many with his immediate transformation.

And now Familia will hopefully be closing even bigger games as his career becomes defined.

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