Yesterday was a big day for 20-year old RHP Jenrry Mejia as he continues to move closer toward locking up a spot in the 2010 Mets bullpen.
He passed his test of working on back-to-back days with flying colors. The young phenom pitched a perfect inning of relief in the Mets’ 7-6 exhibition victory over the Braves, one day after pitching 1 1/3 shutout innings against the Nationals.
During the Braves game yesterday, Jerry Manuel spoke to SNY’s Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez and had this to say,
“I think if we feel like he’s throwing strikes and has some command of the strike zone, with the stuff that he has, he can be a very big part of the bullpen. But, that being said, going forward, we have to project that, possibly, he can be an eighth-inning guy at some point, but we wouldn’t start out in that fashion. We would start out trying to get him confidence and some success and go from there. But, he has a tremendous, tremendous arm, and what he has done so far is dominate hitters, but it’s spring training and we have to be careful with that as well.” (via MetsBlog)
Although Mejia would not automatically start out as the setup man initially, it’s clear that Manuel sees him as key piece to his bullpen, though he does add that he realizes the spring performance may not be mean a smooth transition to the major leagues. Probably a lesson he learned last spring when Bobby Parnell made the team out of camp only to struggle in the majors. That said, what started out as irrational exuberance when Manuel suggested Mejia as the setup man at the start of spring training, now seems to be a foregone conclusion.
In seven games, Mejia has tossed 11 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits, two runs, two walks, nine strikeouts. He has a 1.54 ERA.
Omar Minaya still insisted to reporters yesterday, that he is taking a more cautious approach and that a decision on the young right-hander will not be made until the conclusion of training camp next week.
Although I’ve strongly opposed a move to the bullpen for most of the spring, I am warming up to the idea. Still, it leaves a couple of unanswered questions.
1. In my master plan, Mejia would have logged precious innings at AAA and been our insurance plan if someone faltered in the rotation. I saw him as the mid-season replacement for one of Perez, Pelfrey and Maine. I don’t expect all three of them to suddenly assert themselves and win 15 games each. From what I’ve seen of them this spring, they’ve sure looked disappointing when you consider they had more to prove this spring than any other pitchers in camp. So assuming Jon Niese gets the fifth starters job, who becomes our ace in the hole when we’ll need to call upon the minors for a replacement starter?
2. What if Jenrry Mejia succeeds in the bullpen and becomes a lethal weapon for us? What happens next season? Does he end up remaining a great reliever which is nowhere near as valuable as a great starting pitcher?