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|
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.