On Sunday, manager Terry Collins told reporters that there are differing opinions among the Mets as to who should be the team’s fifth starter.
Mets executives have yet to convene as a group to make a final call regarding the fifth spot in the starting rotation, writes Marc Carig of Newsday. But righthander Jenrry Mejia has made a strong push to seize the spot from veteran Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had long been presumed to be the favorite.
One of the main sticking points the Mets are confronting with simply going with Mejia, is that the 24-year old righthander is coming off an elbow injury last season limited him to 52 innings. The elbow is fine now and Mejia says he feels strong and can command all his pitches, but the Mets are looking at capping his innings.
“It’s an issue we have to take into account,” general manager Sandy Alderson said on Sunday. “I don’t think it’s determinative, but it’s certainly an issue we have to keep in the back of our minds.”
That’s fine, and something that shouldn’t be take lightly, but if you’re willing to limit him to 140-150 innings why not at the major league level?
As a fifth starter, Mejia could make 20-22 starts rather than 30-32, and to have him last the entire season he could skip a rotation as most fifth starters do anyway. Once the Mets decide to bring up Rafael Montero they can even go to a six-man rotation. The point being there are many options at the Mets’ disposal to make this happen.
You can’t tell this kid that he’s the favorite for the fifth spot all offseason long, then sign Dice-K and John Lannan a week before pitchers and catchers report and challenge him to beat them out, and then when he finally does, option him to the minors. Is this how you reward hard work and effort?
Mejia showed fans just how dominating he could be as he held the Washington Nationals to just two hits over five solid innings while striking out six in Sunday’s 3-1 Mets victory. His fastball was explosive and ranged between 94-95 mph with great late movement. So far this Spring, he’s posted a 2.89 ERA in three appearances, not counting two scoreless minor league appearances.
Quite frankly, I don’t understand the hesitation.
But as usual, money is playing a part here. You see, the Mets must inform Matsuzaka by Tuesday if he has made the Opening Day roster. Otherwise, Matsuzaka would need to be paid $100,000 to go to the minors.
So here is the Mets’ dilemma in a nutshell…
Make Mejia the fifth starter, pay Dice-K his $100K and keep him as insurance for the rotation in the minors.
Or make Dice-K the fifth starter, save the $100K, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
I’ll say this in closing…
If Jenrry Mejia gets optioned to Triple-A, it makes Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins appear less than forthright when they both said they would pick the best 25 players for their Opening Day roster.
And a word of advice to both of them… If you do send Mejia to the minors, please, not another word about a 90 win season.
This is your Litmus test.
(Photo: Brad Barr, USA TODAY Sports)