Mejia will start tonight for the Mets, when they begin a three-game series with the Phillies at Citi Field.
4:25 pm: Terry Collins said Friday that Mejia could end up being capped at around 120-125 innings this year.
“He’s pitched well until a certain part of game,” Collins said. “We have to get him through it, I hope today he does it.”
Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
10:10 am: There is a good chance Jenrry Mejia ends up in the bullpen before the end of the month, at which time someone from Triple-A could take his spot in the rotation, I’ve been told by team insiders.
According to multiple reports, the organization is evaluating him on a start-by-start basis to determine how he’ll be used the rest of the season.
“They said they want me to be a starter,” Mejia told beat reporter Mike Puma (NY Post, May 9). “I don’t want to be in the bullpen.”
In the last few days, I’ve been reminded that Mejia, 24, threw just 57 innings last season between his time in the minors and with the Mets. In his seven years as a professional, he has thrown 100 innings in a season just twice, and never more than 108, while missing time with an MCL tear that required Tommy John surgery, a right shoulder strain, elbow inflammation, forearm tendinitis, bone spurs and a blister.
In other words, Mejia would have likely had to deal with some sort of innings limit per game and per start at some point this year, assuming he remains healthy and on the active roster. This talk of being a relief pitcher may simply be the start of transitioning him into a more effective, more limited, more controllable role.
In February 2010, Mejia was the hot pitching prospect. Omar Minaya and company drowned him in praise and talked endlessly about his passion and desire to be great.
“He wants to be a starting pitcher, he believes he will be great, he wants to be Pedro Martinez,” a former front office person once told me. However, he added, “If he’s going to pitch in the bullpen, he’ll expect to be Mariano Rivera, that’s just the kind of kid he is.”
Darryl Strawberry sang Mejia’s praises as well, saying he is the only pitcher he had ever seen that reminded him of Rivera.
“I went to Omar and told him, ‘You’ve got to make this guy a closer,'” Strawberry said in 2010. “I played with Mo, I saw it up close. I know what his cutter looked like and I’m telling you, I haven’t seen a pitch move like his, with that kind of velocity, until I saw this kid Mejia.”
The opposition is hitting .160 the first time they face Mejia in a game, .239 the second time and .438 the third time through the order.
“When you have starts where they are five innings, 4 2/3, five innings, it’s always in the conversation,” Terry Collins recently said about the idea of Mejia one day transitioning back to a relief role.
It is feeling inevitable, especially given the pending promotions of Rafael Montero, Jake deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Mejia is most valuable as a starting pitcher, there is no question about it. I think he can do the job. However, if there is no room at the inn, and management feel his skillset and endurance make him a better fit as a closer, so be it.
In an ideal world, Mejia is a dominant, 30-game starting pitcher. However, if moved to the bullpen, the goal will be for him to fool hitters with his slip-and-slide fastball and a shut-down, four-pitch repertoire. Or, he could go the way of Joba Chamberlain. So, choose wisely, Mets.