Although he is one of a half dozen competitors for the fifth spot in the New York Mets’ starting rotation, Jenrry Mejia appears to be behind veterans Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan early in the spring. Since he’s a little behind in the competition, manager Terry Collins has floated the possibility of Mejia being in the Mets’ bullpen as the long reliever if he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation. However, that’s a bad idea that the Mets would be wise to avoid.
Mejia is a starting pitcher, and if the Mets have any intention of having him be a starter for them in the future, they shouldn’t move him to the bullpen. The Mets moved Mejia between the bullpen and the starting rotation early in his career, and it only hindered his development, which means they should only move him to the bullpen now if it’s a permanent move. Judging by his performance late in the 2013 season, Mejia is capable of being a starting pitcher, and the Mets need to give him that chance.
If the Mets have questions about Mejia or feel that Matsuzaka or Lannan give them a better chance to win games at the start of the season, Mejia should be sent to triple-A as a starter and given a chance to work his way into the major league rotation later in the season. Mejia is still at a place in his young career where he needs regular work, which means making him the long man in the bullpen is the worst possible place to put him as long relievers often have erratic work schedules.
The Mets already have more than a dozen bullpen candidates competing for spots during spring training, and they don’t need to give Mejia one of those spots, especially when they already have a perfect long man who’s also capable of being a spot starter in Carlos Torres. If Mejia is ultimately moved to the bullpen, it should be as a late-inning reliever as he has the stuff to be a dominant in that role.
It’s reasonable that Collins would want the 12 best pitchers the Mets have on the pitching staff, but until the Mets are ready to make Mejia’s move to the bullpen a permanent one, he should remain a starter, even if it means a return to the minors; under no circumstances should Mejia be the Mets’ long reliever this season.