Last night, Jenrry Mejia came of age when he got out of a jam by striking out Mark Teixeira and getting Alex Rodriguez to ground out. Of course, Mejia's the one who got into the jam in the first place by giving up a hit to Kevin Russo and a walk to Derek Jeter. But Mejia apparently did show enough for Mets management to leave Mejia in the bullpen as of now, despite frequent speculation of late that he will be sent down to be stretched out as a starter. And that's a mistake.
Mejia has shown great promise, but so far, he is not the sort of phenom that Joba Chamberlain was in 2007 or Neftali Feliz was in 2009.
Joba's 2007 numbers: 0.38 ERA, 0.75 WHIP with 34 strikeouts and 6 walks in 24 innings.
Feliz's 2009 numbers: 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP with 39 strikeouts and 8 walks in 31 innings.
Mejia's 2010 numbers: 3.60 ERA, 1.70 WHIP with 15 strikeouts and 12 walks in 20 innings.
Joba became the setup man while Feliz is now closing for Texas. Mejia is not going to be the closer and is very unlikely to be the setup man this year.
Keeping Mejia in the majors only makes sense if he is going to be a critical part of a bullpen of a contending team. As of now, he's not a critical part and it's unclear at best if the Mets are a contender.
And if the Mets really want to protect their prized young arm, they should keep him out of Jerry Manuel's bullpen. Last night, Pedro Feliciano pitched for the fifth time in six days. Perhaps that had something to do with him being unable to get anyone out.
Fernando "Nightly" Nieve has an 8.00 ERA in May, giving him a 5.32 ERA for the season. Last night, he faced two batters and walked one of them - with the bases loaded. Nieve has now allowed at least one walk in six straight appearances.
If Mejia does start pitching like 2007 Joba, will Manuel be able to resist turning him into Everyday Mejia?
The Mets do have a variety of options in the bullpen, more so than in the rotation. The Mets need to start turning Mejia into a starter sooner or later. Might as well be sooner.
One brief note on the Fox telecast. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver neglected to put the John Maine situation in context. All Fox viewers heard was that, after "someone" made a reference to pitching lefthanded, Manuel joked that perhaps Maine would have better stuff that way. What the announcers neglected to mention was that it was Maine who brought up the idea, saying he wanted to pitch and would pitch lefthanded if necessary.
Maine is justly praised for wanting to pitch, but if you can't use your pitching arm, you're not likely to help the team a whole lot. Manuel's response was appropriate, if harsh. But Buck and McCarver made Manuel sound like the bad guy.
Manuel is far from perfect as a manager, but he's right to be frustrated with Maine. If only he would realize that, with Maine out of the rotation, possibly indefinitely, the real need for Mejia is as a starter.