Jeremy Hefner, the likely replacement for Johan Santana in the rotation, gave up two homers this afternoon but rebounded to strike out the last six hitters he faced in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Atlanta.
Hefner had a solid line of two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in five innings.
HEFNER: Solid outing today.
Even so, Hefner wasn’t pleased, telling reporters he was concerned because he left the ball up in the strike zone. Hefner said he pitched with a chip on his shoulder the last two innings.
“I was less than thrilled about my performance before then,’’ Hefner said. “The ball was up, as evidenced by all the fly balls and hard-hit balls. I’m the guy that has to pound the bottom of the strike zone and get ground balls to be successful.’’
Hefner said earlier this week he will be ready to replace Santana at the start of the season but that’s my focus.
Do not read into Zack Wheeler’s demotion that the Mets think Jenrry Mejia will replace Johan Santana on the roster and in the rotation.
When I asked Terry Collins of his preparation plans for life without Santana to start the season, the name Jeremy Hefner was only one to pop out. And, without hesitation.
MEJIA: May pitch today.
Collin McHugh, who was also demoted to the minor league camp, made spot starts last year and could be in position again if something were to develop with Hefner.
Mejia’s development this spring was hindered when he reported late because of a visa issue and was further delayed with the thyroid ailment. He is scheduled to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Pitchers start at two innings or 30 pitches and like to work up to seven innings and 100 pitches. There’s no way Mejia can build himself up to that with the time remaining in camp.
Mejia was on the travel squad this morning to Lakeland, where the Mets will play the Tigers again.
The Mets set back Mejia’s career when they rushed him to the majors as a reliever – there was no set relief role – then optioned him back to the minors as a starter at which time he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.
Greetings from Port St. Lucie, where the Mets have the afternoon off. However, just because they are down for the day, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything happening.
I just checked into the hotel and will hit the ground running.
They wouldn’t be the Mets if there weren’t injury news. Jenrry Mejia returned to New York this morning to have an undisclosed medical condition checked out. As with Pedro Feliciano before him, his reporting physical was red flagged.
Mejia is coming off Tommy John surgery, but there is no word yet whether the injury is to his elbow.
Mejia, who is expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, was scheduled to pitch in a “B’’ game this morning against Miami.
Also scheduled to pitch are Shaun Marcum, Felicano and LaTroy Hawkins. I’ll have those results later.
Jenrry Mejia was hammered this afternoon by Miami in his spring training debut, giving up a grand slam in a five-inning first inning in the Mets’ 7-5 loss.
MEJIA: Not a good day. (AP)
Mejia gave up five runs on four hits in a 30-pitch inning. Apparently, few of those pitches were effective.
Terry Collins said Mejia didn’t have the darting cut on his fastball, and suggested the problem could be attributed to having Tommy John surgery after the 2010 season. That was the year Mejia was rushed as a reliever, demoted to the minor leagues where he started, then was injured.
The Mets still don’t know Mejia’s eventual role. He’s expected to start this year, but pitching coach Dan Warthen and minor league manager Wally Backman believe he’s better suited for the bullpen. Collins admitted to that after the game.
Mejia is expected to open the season in the minor leagues unless there’s an injury in the rotation.
MIKE PELFREY, RHP
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: After falling far short of the expectations of a No. 1 draft choice in 2005 – the ninth overall selection – Mike Pelfrey had what was thought to be a breakout year in 2010 when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and career high 204 innings. Pelfrey did not have dominating numbers, but clearly made progressions in his approach to pitching that suggested he might become the pitcher the Mets hoped. Pelfrey finally was pitching with poise and guile. There was an undeniable composure he never displayed before and his pitch selection was far better. Hitters could no longer sit on his fastball because he was getting his secondary pitches over in fastball counts. Could Pelfrey finally become an ace? Well, no. Pelfrey regressed in 2011 going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. Hitters ripped him at a .286 clip with a .344 on-base percentage and crushed 21 homers. With two back-to-back polar opposite seasons, the Mets didn’t know what to expect from him for the $5.6 million they would pay.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Pelfrey started fast this year with a 2.29 ERA in three starts and resembled his 2010 performance. He pitched with composure in that window and the thought was perhaps he would take the next step. However, Pelfrey sustained an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery that finished his season. Would it also finish his Mets’ career?
LOOKING AT 2013: The cost conscious Mets, despite holes in their rotation, aren’t expected to tender Pelfrey a contract this December, even if they were to offer the maximum 20 percent cut from his $5.687 million contract. Many pitchers have rebounded from Tommy John surgery, so even if the Mets don’t bring him back there will be interest as there is no shortage of teams with pitching needs. If the Mets think they can cut him loose and bring him back at a discount, they should think again because at 28, he’s young enough to where his career isn’t over. Pelfrey is a career 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA and .284 batting average against him. Of all the statistics on his resume, his age is the one most likely to cause the Mets to take a flier on him again. Considering the potential holes in the Mets’ rotation and bullpen and inevitable need for pitching, he might be worth the gamble. If healthy, he could give the Mets close to 200 innings. With Johan Santana gone after 2013, the Mets will need a starter and there are no guarantees from Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia. The idea has also been floated of putting Pelfrey in the bullpen with potential of eventually becoming the closer.
NEXT: Matt Harvey