Sep 24

Time For Mejia To Put Up

I’ve been hard on the Mets for their handling of Jenrry Mejia, and rightfully so for shuffling him between a bullpen and starter’s role. I thought Jerry Manuel did him a disservice in rushing him up here two years ago to work in relief when the Mets had no bullpen depth to speak of.

All indications are his arm is fine, but it is time for some accountability for his performance, which has been spotty. In the minors he posted better numbers starting than out of the pen, but he was lit up in his start with the Mets.

Mejia opens the Mets’ final homestand tonight against the fading Pirates, and after that might get one more start before the team calls it quits for the year.

What kind of impression will Mejia leave on Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and Dan Warthen?

As of now, when the 2013 rotation is projected, it does not include Mejia. The bullpen, well, that could be a different story. However, if the Mets project him in that role they should stick with that decision and see how it plays out. None of this failing in the bullpen in spring training and then being moved to the rotation in the minor leagues.

If it is the bullpen, it is time for Mejia to train their exclusively to get himself accustomed to the role and the demands of getting up numerous times to warm up, to entering the game with runners on base, to developing another out pitch to go along with his fastball.

The knock on Mejia working in the rotation is he hasn’t mastered his secondary pitches and doesn’t know how to set up hitters and challenge them. He also has a problem with a fastball that has plenty of velocity but not enough dip or lateral movement. Movement and not speed is the key to an overpowering fastball.

I don’t know what kind of damage was done to Mejia’s arm, and also psyche, during the juggling under Manuel. Maybe the arm injury would have occurred regardless as there’s little way of pinpointing the exact time it happened, especially if it is of a residual nature.

However, while the psyche is another issue, Mejia has to take some responsibility, also.

There’s a learning process to becoming a major league pitcher, and part of it is learning how to deal with adversity, handle pressure and act with poise. That is often the variable that ends careers. It is something Mike Pelfrey hasn’t mastered, and so too, Mejia.

Mejia can throw the hell out of the ball at times, but he hasn’t yet learned how to pitch.

 

Sep 19

What Can The Mets Do When They Have So Little To Trade?

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets were more likely to build via the trade route than by making a big splash in the free-agent market. Amidst the Ike Davis flap, one must wonder what pieces the Mets have to trade.

When you read between the lines from what Alderson has said, everybody is fair game outside of Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. There might be more arms down below the Mets would find untouchable, and Jenrry Mejia probably isn’t one of them any more.

Let’s examine several of the higher profile Mets as to their trade worthiness:

DAVID WRIGHT: He’s the one that always comes up first, but it appears the Mets will make a play to keep him. He’s their biggest position-player talent, but his contractual situation would make it difficult to move him. Most teams wouldn’t want to pay Wright’s 2013 salary as a rental without having the opportunity to sign him to an extension first. Trading him in the offseason is highly doubtful, but a team with a lot of resources could do something next year at the trade deadline. Signing Wright to the long-term deal he deserves would be pricey and those are difficult to unload. The situation with the Dodgers was a stroke of luck for the Red Sox.

R.A. DICKEY: Dickey is one reason I’m still watching the season and haven’t moved on to football season entirely and Kevin’s NFL picks. Outside of the young prospects, he’s their most valuable pitching chip. He has a movable contract, and even a contract extension would probably be palatable to another team. Even if Dickey wins the Cy Young Award – now appearing doubtful – there’s the specter of the knuckleball and finding a catcher who can handle the devilish pitch. Despite Dickey’s success, too many people in baseball would shy away at such a pitcher. You don’t have to look any further than Tony La Russa’s decision at the All-Star Game to realize there’s prejudice against the pitch.

JOHAN SANTANA: The Mets’ best hope here is if he makes a full recovery and pitches lights out in the first half. Then you might find a taker for the remaining $12 million or so remaining. Even that’s a lot and there’s always the fear of him breaking down again. The Mets got all they could from Santana before he broke down and would be foolish to think they could get anything more in a trade. His value to the team is to come back strong as he did this year in the first half and pitch them into contention for a wild card.

JON NIESE: He’s young, left-handed with a strong arm and affordable. What’s not to like? He’s the type of pitching talent teams are built around. Yes, he would bring something in return, but the Mets covet him and would be crazy to trade him.

JASON BAY: He’s been injured, non-productive and has a ridiculous contract. He’s not going anywhere.

All this makes Davis the most tradable.

Sep 15

Jenrry Mejia Getting His Chance

A mark of a good manager is putting his players in position to succeed. He shouldn’t force a player to do something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, thereby increasing the chance of failure.

That’s what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia in 2010. With his job clearly in jeopardy and no bullpen to speak of, Manuel insisted on putting Jenrry Mejia in a relief role coming out of spring training despite no experience at it and, no definable role with the Mets.

Mejia didn’t work for long stretches and struggled when he did get in games. Eventually, he performed so poorly he was optioned out. Once in the minors, they tried him as a starter again. He was eventually injured.

He starts tonight at Milwaukee, despite his last three appearances at Triple-A Buffalo being in relief, this after a solid stretch as a starter.

You guessed it, the Mets still don’t have an idea where Mejia fits into their 2013 plans.

Mejia had dramatically more success at Triple-A Buffalo this season as a starting pitcher than working in the bullpen. He had a 2.75 ERA in ten starts and a 5.48 ERA in 16 relief outings.

His manager at Buffalo, Wally Backman, has faith in him as a reliever.

“You know what? He had never really relieved before, until he got to the big leagues for the short time [in 2010],’’ Backman said. “They sent him back to Triple-A and he started. And then he got hurt. So this year he started as a starter.

“`And [then] we put him in the bullpen. And, believe it or not, I think it was his last three outings in the bullpen, he was pretty good. Then we all of a sudden started him again. To me, he was figuring it out.’’

Mejia has it figured out in his mind as to what he wants to do and where he’s most comfortable and it is starting.

“That’s what I’m looking forward (to),’’ Mejia said. “I want to show them I want to be a starter. I can do my job like a starter.’’

Mejia said he feels more in control with his pitches starting, perhaps because at the start of the game there’s less pressure and more a margin for error than in the eighth or ninth innings.

On paper the Mets’ rotation seems set for 2013, but it must be remembered Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries; Jonathan Niese has a way to go before reaching his potential and might have regressed this year; and Matt Harvey is unproven over the long haul.

All those variables could open up a spot for Mejia.

Sep 14

Should Be Calm Weekend in Brew Town; Keep Duda In Left

My guess is there won’t be any retaliatory fireworks this weekend when the Mets are in Milwaukee this weekend.

When DJ Carrasco plunked Ryan Braun this spring, Terry Collins pulled David Wright from the game to protect his All-Star – over Wright’s objections – yanked Carrasco and cut him the next day. Collins then made sure of talking with Braun at the All-Star Game to smooth over any lingering animosity.

Odds are that conversation, plus bouncing Carrasco, was proof enough for the Brewers that stuff wouldn’t be tolerated by the Mets. Also, tempering the emotions this weekend is that Milwaukee is suddenly in the wild-card race.

With the games growing increasingly important, and scarce, why would the Brewers risk riling up the Mets and possibly exposing Braun to another beaning? That would be the height of stupidity.

This should be an interesting series even without the dramatics.

The Mets will start Jenrry Mejia tomorrow in his first start of the season.

After all this time, unbelievably there are some in the organization split on what his role should be. He’s had some degree of success at both in the minor leagues, but also a measure of frustration on the major league level.

They’ve stretched him out already and with Matt Harvey shut down after one more start, that would open up an opportunity for Mejia to get three starts in the final month. That should be enough for the Mets to get a clue as where they should put in during spring training.

With Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries, Harvey in his first full season, and the uncertainty of Zach Wheeler, there will be starting opportunities next year, and with the Mets not likely to spend in the off-season, having Mejia in place in a must.

Another reason Mejia should be in the rotation is that starters are harder to come by than relievers. It seems every winter there is a closer available. The caveat with closers is they can be hit or miss, and Mets fans don’t have to go back far to recall Frank Francisco and Frankie Rodriguez. Both saved more than they blew, but both also provided anxious moments. Come to think of it, so did Billy Wagner.

One thing I’m not getting lately, unless the Mets’ intent is to showcase him in a trade, is the sudden need to see Lucas Duda again at first base. We saw plenty of him last year, and what the Mets need to find out is if he can play left field because he plays right as if it were a minefield. Duda is in left and Ike Davis back at first tonight.

The Mets like Duda’s power potential, and unless they move him, he seems destined to platoon with Jason Bay in left field. If both Duda and Bay are on the team next season, I’d rather see Bay in right field.

 

Sep 09

Mets Matters: Flushing Farewell To Chipper Jones Today

The Mets honored Chipper Jones Friday night and he makes his last appearance in Flushing this afternoon. You can tell by his reception feelings toward him have mellowed. As they should. It’s one thing to jeer an opponent, sometimes viciously. However, in the end you have to admire how Jones played the game.

CHIPPER: Farewell. (AP)

I covered Cal Ripken’s last game at Yankee Stadium and he got several standing ovations as the game went long and nobody knew when he’d take his last at-bat. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book and I believe most Mets fans – perhaps grudgingly – have reached that acceptance. Honestly, in his last at-bat I hope he gets a standing ovation.

In other Mets Matters:

* Jeremy Hefner was rocked yesterday, but he’s shown enough to warrant another couple of starts. I don’t know where he fits in next year. That’s what this time is about.

* Chris Young starts today in hope of averting the sweep. Young is 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA and has been rocked lately. Like a lot of others, I don’t know where he fits in. There’s uncertainty in the rotation with Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries and not knowing if they’ll return Mike Pelfrey. Young is a veteran, cheap alternative who can usually be counted on to give the Mets five innings. After that it gets dicey. They’ll look inside first, but I can see Young getting another contract.

* Triple-A Buffalo manager Wally Backman will join the team for the rest of the season. I think Backman is the next Mets’ manager after Terry Collins. Not sure how long Collins plans to manage. He’s gotten one extension and deserves another past 2013. I don’t want him to go into next year as a lame duck.

* GM Sandy Alderson admits it’s a long shot for Zach Wheeler to crack next year’s rotation. Just as well. Let him go into spring training with limited pressure and earn a spot.

* Jenrry Mejia is scheduled to start Sept. 19 against the Phillies. I hope the Mets finally has decided on his role as a starter. Have him already stretched out and if starting works out they can always switch him back. That’s an easier transition than bullpen to rotation.