After nearly blowing a save on Friday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, and then actually doing so on Sunday, New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia came clean about pitching with a hernia over the last three weeks.
Mejia says that he’d like to continue pitching through the rest of the season before having surgery to fix the injury, and while there is little chance of Mejia exacerbating the injury by continuing to pitch, continuing to put him on the mound in key spots may not be what’s best for the Mets.
Sunday’s loss was one of the worst for the season for the Mets, and not a game they could afford to lose after leading by five runs against a last-place team. While the odds of the Mets reaching the postseason are slim, hope is still alive, and the margin for error is small. The Mets can’t afford to let games like Sunday’s get away from them, and judging by Mejia’s performance in his last few outings, the injury is keeping him from being the dominant closer he was in July.
Mejia should be commended for wanting to fight through the injury and pitch to the end of the season, but he’s clearly not at his best, and shouldn’t be closing games for the Mets down the stretch. With the injury, Mejia will have trouble finishing his pitches, which is a problem he had four or five innings into his starts early in the season.
The Mets have two other pitchers in Jeurys Familia and Vic Black who can easily take on bigger roles in the bullpen at the end of games, and who will be more effective than the version of Mejia who is hampered by an injury. Moreover, the Mets have the depth in their bullpen to survive without Mejia, with Daisuke Matsuzaka due to return from the DL at some point and Gonzalez Germen dominating at triple-A since his last demotion.
As for Mejia, just because he can’t exacerbate the hernia injury doesn’t mean he can’t do damage to his arm by trying to overcompensate. That’s a real fear, especially for a young pitcher who is as competitive as Mejia and who will likely be pitching in high-stress situations at the end of games.
At the end of the day, what’s best for all parties involved for Mejia to take himself off the field and have the necessary surgery to fix his hernia, even if it means missing the rest of the season. Mejia obviously wants to pitch a full season in the big leagues for the first time in his career, but if he continues to pitch, he won’t be helping himself or the Mets.