Entering the 2014 season, Vic Black was among the favorites to lock down a spot in the bullpen. However, a rough and wild spring, during which he allowed 13 hits and 10 walks in just 9.1 innings of work, earned him a trip west to Las Vegas instead of north to New York to work out the kinks.
Black spent April and most of May in the bullpen for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. His control issues persisted, as he walked 17 batters in 18.2 innings. Yet, he was able to keep most of those baserunners off the scoreboard and posted a tidy 1.45 ERA over 17 appearances.
The Mets recalled Black on May 26 to take the bullpen spot of Jose Valverde, who was released after his latest disastrous outing in a long string unspeakable appearances. Once back in New York, Black begin to flash the potential the Mets saw when they acquired him late in the 2013 season, along with Dilson Herrera, from Pittsburgh for Marlon Byrd and John Buck. While the wildness continued at times, Black was able to flash his high-90s heater and devastating curve to become a very effective bullpen weapon and a master of pitching out of trouble. Of the 26 runners Black inherited upon entering a game, he allowed just one of them to score.
In 41 appearances for the Mets, the 26-year-old Black finished 2-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings. He whiffed 32 batters while issuing 19 free passes. He notched 12 holds and his fastball averaged 95.7 mph over the course of the year.
Injuries slowed him towards the end of the year. In late August he missed two weeks while suffering with a slightly herniated disc in his neck. He returned on September 8 and had two ineffective outings in which his velocity had dropped off a few miles per hour. He was shut down for the season on September 13 with a rotator cuff strain.
Desired 2015 role: A healthy, hard-throwing seventh inning-shutdown reliever a la Kelvin Herrera in Kansas City. Black-Familia-Mejia has a nice ring to it.
Projected 2015 role: Solid bullpen option for the sixth and seventh innings. Wild bumps in the road persist, but occur less frequently with more experience at the big league level.