Manny Acosta was the lightning rod for criticism of the New York Mets' struggling bullpen for the first two months of the season. After getting designated for assignment and clearing waivers, he's suddenly finding a comfort zone again in his third year with the Buffalo Bisons.
The Panamanian right-hander was lights-out in Sunday's 6-1 loss to Pawtucket, retiring all eight men he faced and not letting a single ball get out of the infield. Acosta struck out four, induced three grounders and one popup.
Acosta can throw consistently in the mid to high 90s. His problem has been too many pitches on the fat part of the plate. Acosta was 1-2 with an 11.86 ERA in 19 games for the Mets this season and his numbers were ungodly: In 22 innings, he gave up 35 hits (including six home runs) and walked 15 as opponents batted .361 against him.
"I came here to work on my pitches and my location on my fastball," he said. "When you have the opportunity to be in the game, you have to be consistent with every pitch you throw."
That's been the case here. In eight innings over four outings with Buffalo, Acosta has given up no runs on five hits, struck out 10 and walked none. Opponents are batting .185. He came on with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth Sunday and promptly escaped the jam with a strikeout and a popup from Mike Rivera, who had already homered and driven in three runs.
"From what [catcher Lucas] May was telling me from behind the plate, Manny was locating his pitches well," said manager Wally Backman. "His breaking ball was outstanding, not down the middle of the plate."
Acosta has put up good numbers the last two years splitting time with both Buffalo and the Mets, including a 1.77 mark in 20 games in Buffalo last season. A key item is his 2.59 ERA after the All-Star break the last two years with the Mets, as compared to a 4.88 mark prior to the break.
"The last couple years in the big leagues, Manny was close to the best bullpen guy up there consistently in the second half of the season," Backman said. "To get him on a regular usage basis here for us, he'll only get better."
"I throw hard but that's not the point," Acosta said. "The point is the locations and I wasn't happy with those enough in the big leagues. I come here to work and maybe one day I get to go back."
The Bisons are expected to face 49-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer for the second time this month during Wednesday night's game in Norfolk. Moyer threw five innings of one-hit shutout ball and beat the Herd here on June 9 in his first start after signing with Baltimore as a minor-league free agent.
Moyer took the loss Friday as Norfolk fell to visiting Toledo, 3-2, even though he struck out seven and walked none in seven innings. So in two games, Moyer is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA, and has struck out 12 while walking none in 12 innings.
Recapping a busy weekend of injury rehab assignments:
*Mets utility man Ronny Cedeno (hamstring) was 1 for 4 for the Bisons Son unday and is 2 for 11 in three games. He played all three games at shortstop.
*Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada will rejoin the Bisons tonight in Norfolk for a second try to get back from a quad injury.
He shut down his first rehab stint after two games due to tightness.
*Boston outfielder Cody Ross (foot) went 0 for 4 Sunday for Pawtucket and scored a run after being hit by a pitch. He played right field after serving as DH Saturday and was 1 for 7.