For a guy who didn’t want to be a relief pitcher, Jenrry Mejia has really taken to the role.
Driven by both the spectre of his past arm injuries and the need to fulfill an important job in his career, Mejia publicly and privately stated that he wanted to be a starting pitcher. After all, when he was flung back and forth between roles back in 2010, he ended up needing Tommy John surgery, and Mejia – as well as many fans – blame how he was handled by Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel that year. But it looks like Mejia has found a home in the ninth inning here in 2014.
Mejia hinted that if the New York Mets were to give him an eighth or ninth inning role, he’d be more open to the idea of short relief. Out of all bullpen roles, the closer and set-up men know exactly when they are needed. That helps them better time their warmup preparation, which may help save their arms. One never knows. But the role of closer was especially appealing to Mejia, and he’s looked perfectly at home in it.
Mejia has not allowed an earned run as a reliever, he’s saved three games, and he’s naturally perfected the rituals that make closers entertaining. He has hair that makes him look like a cross between Oscar Gamble and Pedro Martinez, and a save celebration worthy of Fernando Rodney. He has a 94-MPH cutter like Mariano Rivera, but a multi-pitch arsenal like…well, like Jenrry Mejia.
He has great stuff, but he also has the intangibles the old-timers always talk about. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would let a blown save get to him, but he’s intense enough to nail down an important game. He loves the limelight. That’s why he will excel as a closer, even though he always wanted to be a starter. He even has a signature celebration – he takes off his cap to reveal his mane, in the spirit of Rafael Soriano‘s “untuck” routine.
If the Mets handle him right, they should keep his arm healthy. He worked back-to-back games for the first time this week. But he showed a level of maturity by working both games of the doubleheader on Sunday. He lost the first game thanks to an egregious error by the human high-wire act, Daniel Murphy. But he rebounded to save second game; a game the Mets sorely needed to win.
So, say hello to your new closer, Mets fans. And if flesh, muscle, and cartilage allow, he will be your closer for years to come.