Last week Mets fans saw something scary: Jenrry Mejia made his first spring-training appearance. The outing was less than ideal. In only one inning of work, Mejia gave up five runs total — four of them coming from a grand slam by Casey Kotchman. Mejia’s performance has come as a bit of a shock. The Dominican right-hander has been on the radar for a while as a Mets top prospect, however it seemed as though nothing would really come of him.

Mejia’s lackluster outing last week doesn’t help his case to make the rotation this year. Since the Mets have an abundance of pitching for the fifth spot with the likes of Shaun Marcum, Collin McHugh, and potentially Zack Wheeler, it would be unlikely that Mejia will be able to perform well enough to snag a starting job. However, Mejia does seem to struggle out of the bullpen. Last year, at Triple-A Buffalo, Mejia had a 5.48 ERA in 21 innings of work as a reliever, however a 2.75 ERA in 52 innings of work as a starter.

This puts Mejia in a strange place: He’s not good in the bullpen, but also wouldn’t be good enough as a starter. This idea may be a little radical, but if Mejia is the type of pitcher who needs to eat up innings, maybe the Mets should consider using him as a three-inning closer, similar to how closers were used in the 1970s and early ‘80s. In the table below are three pitchers: Goose Gossage, Tug McGraw, and Jesse Orosco, and the number of saves they got for the number of innings they pitched in one appearance.

Name Year # of Saves in 2 inning Appearances # of Saves in 3 inning Appearances # of Saves in 4 inning Appearances Total Number of Saves
Goose Gossage 1977 12 4 1 26
Jesse Orosco 1983 4 4 1 17
Tug McGraw 1972 7 2 0 27

The setup of the modern bullpen favors the type of guys who can be “lights out” for one inning. However, closers have been successful in going more than one inning. Gossage is a prime example. Twelve out of his 26 saves came from more than one inning pitched, which is almost half of his saves. Orosco and McGraw are examples of how this approach has worked for the Mets. Mejia has clearly demonstrated that he can’t handle one-inning situations, nor can he handle being a starter. Fashioning a hybrid between the two in the form of a three-inning closer may solve the dilemma of what type of pitcher Mejia should be. It gives Mejia the ability to have longevity in ball games, but at the same time not tire out. Since there has been success in the past with this approach, it’s a solution Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins should consider if Mejia fails to develop the secondary pitches necessary for him to be a starter.

9 comments on “Should the Mets go “Back to the Future” with Jenrry Mejia’s role?

  • Metsense

    Spencer, what I would give to go back to the pre LaRusso bullpens. The Mets have an opportunity not just with Mejia but with all the future rotation candidates. You only need 5 starters. Then you need 2 or 3 high strikeout low Whip “closer” types. I’ll use the old term “firemen”. The avg NL starter goes 6 innings. Push that starter a little furthur and if he starts to get in trouble bring in a fireman to finish the inning. Next in is the middle reliever, like Mejia (or Familia, or McHugh,, or Tapia, Montero in years to come) to pitch until pinch hitted for (the Davey Johnson double switch would again become popular) or pitch to the end, or pitch into the 9th until the manager thinks he needs (not an automatic) another “firman” to finish the game. This old idea actually means the manager (or pitching coach) has to know how to use their pitchers. Spencer, I agree that this should be the way of the Met’s future bullpen.

  • Ron

    Let me preface my response by saying that Meija may be a stud in the starting rotation at some point or he could be a bust … he could be a lights-out relief pitcher or bust …. who knows …. but — that said — let me see if I am reading this right. The foundation of this whole post is based on ONE INNING of a SPRING TRAINING GAME ….. I vividly recall Dwight Gooden getting rocked by the Cardinals in his first spring training start one year and more recently, Johan Santana got rocked in his first spring training appearance as a Met in 2008 (when he was still good) by an aging Juan Gonzalez of all people.

    One inning of a spring training game and we are drawing conclusions about Meija’s ultimate role.

    • Brian Joura

      I think you’re reading too much into one inning of a ST game compared to the state of limbo that Mejia has been in for several years now due to the mismanagement of him under the Manuel-Minaya team.

      Mejia faces an uphill battle to be in the rotation long-term. That would have been anyone’s opinion coming into ST, regardless of how he did in any particular outing.

      He’s been jerked back and forth between starting and relieving and it’s a legitimate question to speculate on his future role with the club.

    • Mike Koehler

      If I could find a like or +1 button, I would press it.
      This is one inning of spring training ball. Spring training is about practice and getting back into the rhythm, and he showed up late due to visa issues. That’s like saying Santana can’t be a starter because he’s not ready right now.
      Leave him on the starter track for more than a few games and let him develop. Bouncing him between the two clearly didn’t work in the past.

  • Name

    What!? Terry Collins letting a pitcher go longer than 1 batter at a time! What a concept!

    On a practical note, unless Meija buys into this type of mentality, it’s not going to work. And i don’t think he would risk his future to try it either. You might be able to convince some flamed out pitcher to try it, but not a prospect who still has a future.

    On a philosphical note, i wonder how a manager would utilize someone like this. Manager’s typically utilize their relievers to maximize their “Saves” stat, so would the 3-inning be closer also be used to maximized that stat? Would you also use him as a regular closer or would you need another one?

  • Chris F

    If Mejia can be bundled and traded or just traded we’d be lucky to make it happen. As I try to envision a Playoff caliber team, his name does not even show up on the edge of the radar screen. Pick any number of reasons why, but the plain fact is, he will never be a starter in Flushing, and he does not have relief potential. That said, its time to move on. I think us Mets fans have a bit of “Stockholm Syndrome” we are dealing with. We are so used to the captivity of mediocrity that we can defend it as if it is good. He’s not what we thought, and its time to accept it and move on to others. Syndergaard will be up before Mejia. Im afraid the same is true for Familia and ElRam too. They are projects that simply will never produce the upside needed to make the investment to try. Sorry to say it, but Id dump them all and let the younger crew assume their chance to move up.

    • Name

      I don’t agree with this philosophy.
      Just because they have failed once doesn’t mean they still don’t have potential. Yes, they’re less likely to make as big as an impact as we once thought, but we don’t need to give up on them right away. They might not be stars, but they could still be useful major league pieces. Plenty of players have revived their careers after being labeled as “busts”,

      Most of us still think that Meija is the product of mishandling. He’s still only 23 and has time to put it together. Familia and ElRam have barely touched the major leagues. Not everyone has success their first go round. In fact, those who do are the exceptions and not the rule. I understand your frustration with the current squad, but dumping everyone is not the answer.

      • Chris F

        The thin is name, I don’t see them having the time…it’s now against them. Look at the prospective rotation as soon as 2014: Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Gee and….someone else. By end ’14, Syndergaard will be up. Those arms, save injury, will be locked in for some time. Mejia (and others) simply is not ready now and with the time needed develop wont have a place. If he has trade value, then I’d say use it. I can’t see him sitting in the minors for years just as an emergency arm.

        By the same token, I’m reaching my limit with Dua and Kirk. I don’t see either as MLB level players. We can use this year to have an extended tryout, but neither have “it”. If den Dekker is given the chance, or takes the chance as he may be doing, it’s time to let him see if he is ready. Te guy looks hungry. Right now I’d be just as happy with MdD and Cowgill as the CF platoon.

        It’s time to start thinking about players capable of bringing 95+ wins to Flushing. It’s a young mans game, and by 23-25 if you ain’t got it, it probably ain’t coming.

    • Metsense

      I think you are right about the “Stockholm Syndrome” in regard to Met fans. Only two Met position players were above NL average both offensively and defensively for their position: Wright and Hairston. Average will get the team to .500, that many players below average explains the 4 4th place finishes in a row. Chris you are also correct that the clock is ticking and there is a shelf life on prospects. This is the first time in years that lower prospects are pushing past the prospects that have not reached their potential. The Mets are finnally having a semblance of a farm system.

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