JUPITER, Fla. - The Mets arrived at spring training with a high-octane quartet in the back end of their bullpen.
Vic Black and Josh Edgin carved out niches for themselves in high-leverage situations, joining setup man Jeurys Familia and closer Jenrry Mejia.
But with less than three weeks to Opening Day, the Mets' fearsome foursome could be down to two, with Edgin undergoing Tommy John surgery and Black still battling lingering shoulder fatigue.
"We've been sitting here telling everybody that we didn't have to rebuild our bullpen,'' manager Terry Collins said after yesterday's 7-2 split-squad win over the Cardinals. "Hell, right now we're in the process of rebuilding it as we speak. And if Vic's down, we've got to take a look at other options.''
Earlier in the day, Edgin offered up a reminder of how quickly a team strength can turn into a weakness. After undergoing surgery on Tuesday, he returned to the clubhouse Thursday and wore a sling for his left arm, his elbow covered with bandages.
Since the injury, the Mets have dispatched scouts in search of a potential replacement for Edgin, displeased with the lefthanders they have in camp.
Black will remain shut down for at least two more days, and it's unclear when he'll be ready to throw off a mound again. He still is battling the lingering effects of tendinitis and is on anti-inflammatory medication.
"The decision was [made] so the anti-inflammatory can do its job without any irritation,'' said Black, who downplayed his latest stumbling block.
Black, 26, felt pain after resuming his throwing program on Tuesday. The discomfort, which was first reported by the Daily News, prompted the shutdown.
If this were the regular season, Black said he would pitch through the issue. In spring training, he said, there is no need to push.
"There is plenty of time,'' said Black, who posted a 2.60 ERA in 41 appearances last season. "I'm strong and ready. Just need the ache out of there.''
But Collins expressed concern about whether Black will be ready to pitch by Opening Day on April 6 at Washington. He has pitched only two innings in two Grapefruit League games.
"Again, I think when you're only a one-inning guy, if you can give him three or four outings in the last two weeks, that's what should be OK,'' Collins said. "But we've got to get him back out there throwing off the mound first.''
If Black is shut down for at least two days, it's likely he'll need more time before he's ready to throw off a mound. With camp winding down, Collins doesn't think he can afford any more setbacks.
"It's getting close, yes,'' Collins said. "It's getting very, very close that he's going to run out of days to get himself ready. He's a power pitcher and it takes time to build that arm strength up.''
Of greater consequence may be Black's propensity for shoulder issues, which plagued him at various points last season and earlier in camp. Collins conceded that he harbors concerns.
"I do, because this is the second year in a row now that he's had issues,'' he said. "He had them last spring, he had them late in the summer and now he's got them this year.''
But for now, in a camp that has been marred by elbow injuries to Edgin and Zack Wheeler, Black believes his issue is minor.
For the sake of the bullpen, Collins hopes he's right.
"We've been bragging about the back end of our bullpen and right now it's down to two,'' Collins said. "So we certainly are concerned about Vic.''