Once he arrives in camp – which might take another week – it appears Jenrry Mejia’s spring is already laid out for him.
Barring an injury to somebody rated ahead of him, Mejia will be used as a starting pitcher and expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. This decision has nothing to do with his visa problems in leaving the Dominican Republic.
Not that they don’t need bullpen help, but this is the best course for the Mets, both in the short and long terms.
The Mets have several rotation questions, and if history is an indicator they will have a need for another starter or two this season. It is that way every summer.
And, for next year and beyond, the Mets will need another starter, as there are no plans to bring back Johan Santana.
The Mets’ projected rotation includes Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Mejia and Zack Wheeler are next in line.
Santana and Gee are coming off injuries; Niese’s career-high is 13 victories; Harvey has ten career starts; and Marcum was a late FA pick-up. Now, you tell me that is a position of strength.
Clearly, the Mets need more starting pitching depth.
Mejia has been bounced around between the rotation and the pen, and I still maintain Jerry Manuel’s insistence of using him as an untested reliever set back his career. Through it all, Mejia’s greatest success has been as a starter, and it is the team’s obligation to put him in a position where he’s best able to succeed.
After coming off Tommy John surgery last year – and who says there’s not a connection with how he’s been handled? – Mejia’s numbers were far superior as a starter.
Mejia posted a 2.75 ERA and .245 opponents batting average as a starter compared to a 5.48 ERA and .303 opponents batting average out of the bullpen.
While it isn’t the largest sampling, it is enough to determine his comfort zone and the best place to start.
Starting pitching is expensive, and despite Fred Wilpon’s proclamation his finances are in order and the Mets will spend in the future, that’s no guarantee. What is assured, however, is the Mets don’t have the chips to deal for a starter and anybody of substance in the free-agent market will be costly. That’s another reason why grooming Mejia in this role is the prudent option because of his reasonable salary.
Mejia needs this year to fully come back from his injury and build up the strength to pitch seven plus innings every fifth day. This is the best course for both Mejia and the Mets.
Meanwhile, Mejia is working out at the Mets’ complex in the Dominican Republic and manager Terry Collins thinks it could be another week before he gets to Florida.