In Jenrry Mejia‘s last two outings, he’s started off strong, then struggled in the middle innings. He gave up five runs in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins, then he was shelled for eight runs in the fifth against the Colorado Rockies. Thanks mostly to those starts, opponents are hitting .160 against him the first time through the batting order, .239 the second time around and a huge .438 the third time through. This has led to speculation that the New York Mets may move him to the bullpen.
Manager Terry Collins, citing Mejia’s outing lengths of “five innings, 4.2, five innings” (his last was actually 4.1 innings), said the bullpen option is always on the table. That might be the right move for Mejia later in the season, but not right now.
Let’s throw out the game against the Rockies. We all know that Coors Field is like Thunderdome of Mad Max fame. Two teams enter, and one team leaves. And if you’re lucky enough to be the team that survives, you’re still worn out by the various obstacles and deadly weapons (mostly baseball bats) that you had to traverse. The only difference between Coors Field and Thunderdome is the audience, which is generally very congenial.
Mejia was cruising along with 6-0 lead, when he suddenly couldn’t get a pitch past anybody in the Rockies’ lineup. Whether it was a cutter or a breaking ball, the result was a hit, be it a line drive or a ground ball that found a hole. When he did get a double play ball, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy took their sweet time turning it, and Lucas Duda dropped the relay throw at first base. Considering how many pitches he threw that inning, Mejia probably should have been removed for Daisuke Matsuzaka (if he was finished with his biblical epic of a warmup routine), but he stayed in, hit a batter and then gave up a grand slam.
Also, Mejia showed he was capable of going deep into a game when he went 6.2 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Apr. 21. After that start, his ERA dropped to a season-low 1.99. It now sits at 5.23 thanks to Thunderdome. Mejia is still striking out more than one batter per inning, and he does still struggle with his control at times.
So the Mets should stick with Mejia for a few more starts to see what he can do. After all, this is a season of growth for many of the young Mets. The Mets could end up moving Jenrry into the bullpen later in the year in order to keep him from hitting his innings limit, which is a precaution that many major league teams take these days. But for now, New York should give Mejia every opportunity to prove he belongs in the starting rotation.