Bullpen Burnouts: Fernando Nieve and Jenrry Mejia

An article by posted on May 20, 2010

Only a month ago, the Mets bullpen was being looked at as a big strength for the team as they led the league in ERA, Batting Average Against, WHIP and even strikeouts. They have quickly sunk to the bottom in many of those categories as the season wore on due mostly to some bad bullpen management, pitch counts, and an ineffective starting rotation.

Jenrry Mejia, the youngest player in the Majors when the season started, came out of the gate in impressive fashion and finished his first month of the season with a pristine 1.64 ERA and all the previous banter that he was prematurely promoted began to fade away. Then May came.

Initially, Mejia was only allowed to pitch in non-pressurized situations, but now he is being used more often with the game on the line and the results so far have not been good.

This month he has appeared in eight games, and in 6.1 innings pitched, Mejia has allowed 14 baserunners either by a walk or hit. His ERA for the month has been 4.25 which is not exactly terrible until you spot his unsightly 2.20 WHIP. You could see he clearly doesn’t exude any confidence with runners on base and it brings out his wild side.

There is now talk of sending him to the minors and having him resume his career as a starter. Sounds like a good idea.

Before Jerry Manuel completely burned Fernando Nieve out, there was talk of him taking over the setup role for the Mets, but that talk is completely dead now. After getting off to a solid month in April, when he led the NL in appearances, Nieve started to go down hill in May and has completely crashed and burned now.

Nieve is sporting an 8.31 ERA this month and has just one strikeout in his last eight appearances spanning 7.2 innings in which he allowed 8 hits, 4 walks and 3 home runs.

He is a ticking time bomb, and would probably benefit from some down time in Buffalo where he won’t be abused by his manager. Incidentally, in looking at Nieve’s splits he would have been a poor choice for setup job anyway as lefthanded batters have scorched him for a 11.26 ERA. As long as he remains in the bullpen, he shouldn’t be allowed to face the likes of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Robinson Cano during the next homestand.

You could make the case that Jerry Manuel had a strong hand in burning these two pitchers out, but then again you could also point to John Maine and Oliver Perez as the culprits too. Both have averaged less than five innings pitched per start causing undo stress on an already heavily taxed bullpen.

Hisanori Takahashi has been priceless out of the pen, but now he is being yanked and added to the rotation leaving Oliver Perez as the team’s potential longman. Last night against the Nationals, Perez came in and faced two batters, predictably walking one of them almost as if on cue.

There is a ray of hope however. Ryota Igarashi is rehabbing in Buffalo and could be activated from the disabled list in time for the Subway Series which begins tomorrow. Iggy was having a fine season before he got hurt, and should provide the bullpen with a nice boost upon his return.

That said, unless the Mets can get their rotation to go deeper into games, it wont be long until Iggy suffers the same fate as his bullpen mates. Until Jerry Manuel learns to manage his bullpen more efficiently, it can get even more uglier and more heartache could be coming our way late in games.

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