The Jenrry Mejia experiment is over in New York…at least for now.
The Mets did the right thing when they sent the 20-year-old rookie to the minors Sunday. While Mejia was an adequate if inconsistent reliever for the Mets this season, GM Omar Minaya’s decision to send him to the minors to start is what’s best for Mejia and the Mets organization in the long term.
Mejia finished strong in his final appearance Sunday, retiring all three Yankees that he faced. The lineup was nothing to sneeze at: Mejia made fast work of Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira.
For the season with the Mets, Mejia’s numbers were acceptable but not spectacular. His raw talent was apparent, but at times his inexperience clearly hurt him. In 30 appearances, Mejia pitched 27 2/3 innings, had an 0-2 record, and had a solid 3.25 ERA. He struck out 17 batters and walked 15 while allowing 29 hits.
The original plan this season was for Mejia to continue to learn in the minors, but Mejia had other plans. He was clearly the Mets strongest pitcher in spring training games and earned a spot on the 25-man roster.
“When we broke camp in spring training we had to put him on the team because the way he was throwing—the best reliever we had going at the time,” Minaya admitted.
At first, Mets manager Jerry Manual was hoping Mejia could be the eighth inning setup man, but Mejia’s youthful inconsistency quickly cost him that job. In recent weeks, the hard throwing hurler was often reduced to mop-up duty, coming in when the Mets were far behind, like in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Yankees.
Now, with the Mets starters going deeper into games and the bullpen improving, Minaya feels the time is right to prepare Mejia for his long term role: starting pitcher.
“Other guys have picked it up and we feel much more comfortable with some of the guys picking it up. We feel comfortable that there’s been some development up here and he has helped us in different situations,” Minaya said. “This is just another step for him that we feel is going to help the team, help him, and help the team long term.”
Mejia seems to be taking his demotion in stride. “I want to be in the major leagues,” he said. “I’ll go down, continue working hard. It’s good because they think about me. They’re not sending me down because I didn’t do my job. I did my job.”
The Mets now know that Mejia can survive at the Major League level. He can face big league hitters without embarrassing himself and he can make a contribution to the team.
Now the young hurler has to go down to AA Binghamton and readjust to being a starting pitcher again. Instead of facing a handful of batters, he has to redevelop the stamina and variety of pitches to go through the opposition’s batting order three or four times a game. Being a starting pitcher requires a different mindset and if that’s going to be his role in the future, it’s time Mejia learned how to do it.
The Mets hope Mejia’s confidence will increase during this minor league stint. This half season in New York gave Mejia a taste of life in the Majors and what it will take to succeed. It’s time for Mejia to apply those lessons, hone his craft and become a bona fide big league starter.
The Mets were right to send Mejia down now. Next spring, when he returns, he can fight for a legitimate spot in the Mets starting rotation. Mets fans are looking forward to Mejia’s return…when he’s ready.