2006-02-03 / Sports

Wagner Looks To Wreck Havoc On Batters

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

NEW YORK – Though he looks calm, cool and collected on the mound, new Mets closer Billy Wagner has a secret.

He really isn’t.

“I’m a wreck,” Wagner laughed at the New York Mets’ Caravan last week. “As a reliever for me at least, I see my team scrapping and get a lead, my first thought is not to blow this. As times goes on, the nervousness and excitement gets me out there.”

But he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s a situation where it’s exciting and gut wrenching.”

There’s no arguing with the formula with 284 saves over 11 seasons under his belt. Wagner immediately upgraded a shaky bullpen, which took its toll on the Mets staff last year.

“It’s not that [Braden] Looper did a bad job; he gave us all he got,” Cliff Floyd mentioned at the same event. “But we now have a guy who has a reputation. We may lose a couple, but there are times he is going to come in and its game over. I would bet my house on him.” Other Mets are hoping the same thing.

Tom Glavine, who’s had more than his fair share of leads blown over his three seasons at Shea, may be one of the biggest beneficiaries. “What we tried to do this offseason was to address the bullpen with quality power arms and we have done that, so now it’s where they all fit in on a given night.

As a starting pitcher, I feel pretty good coming out of a game if I have to.” Even though his numbers tell the story, there are still questions about Wagner’s ability to play in New York, which can be tough on even the most hardened athletes. But the Tannersville, VA native, looks forward to it.

“New York is always where you want to be,” Wagner said. “If you succeed in New York, you’re a legend. And that’s what every athlete wants to accomplish in his or her life. And this gives me that opportunity.”

But he had practice. Wagner pitched the last two seasons in Philadelphia and their fans voiced their displeasure loud enough. It seems to have prepared the 34 year-old for this step.

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