It’s nearly two months into the season, and the New York Mets finally have a closer who actually has a chance of staying in that role for the remainder of the season: none other than Jenrry Mejia.
The Mets have spent the first two months of the season auditioning a handful of pitchers for the closer’s role. Bobby Parnell suffered a season-ending injury, Vic Black failed to secure a spot in the bullpen during Spring Training, and veterans Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth both proved to be disastrous fill-ins. Meanwhile, both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carlos Torres have made cameo appearances.
But after his six-out save against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, there’s no doubt that the closer’s job is Mejia’s for the foreseeable future.
Mejia was skeptical of the Mets moving him to the bullpen at first, but ever since his first appearance as a reliever against the New York Yankees, Mejia has taken to the bullpen and the closer’s role like a fish to water. As soon as Mejia completed his first inning as a reliever, he embraced the role and looked excited to be pitching out of the bullpen, and not at all obstinate to the move to the bullpen.
With Mejia being enthusiastic about now being in the bullpen, the difficult part of the transition is over. As long as Mejia has the desire to be a closer and feels the adrenalin rush that closers often have during save situations, he’ll be a successful closer for the Mets, as there’s no doubt that he has the stuff and the repertoire of pitches to get major league hitters out in high-pressure situations.
It’s still a small sample size, but the results have been evident early in Mejia’s tenure as a reliever. In 9.1 innings, he’s allowed just one unearned run and 12 base runners, while striking out nine. Also, with Mejia pitching on back-to-back days, pitching multiple innings, and then appearing in both games of a doubleheader, his arm is bouncing back nicely and showing it can handle the duties of being a reliever.
More importantly, with Mejia starting to settle into the closer’s role, the Mets have solved one of the biggest problems they’ve had this season. Not only does the closer’s job appear to be settled, but it now belongs to one of the Mets’ most talented pitchers, giving the Mets a much better chance to win the kind of games they were losing earlier in the season.