Those of us rooting for Jenrry Mejia to be the Mets’ fifth starter this year were dealt a blow Friday night when he had to leave his start early after getting hit in the forearm. It’s another in a long list of injuries that have kept the former top prospect from settling in at the major league level. It also brings up more questions about if players have the capacity to avoid injuries or whether some guys just have incredible bad luck.
From a distance, it does not seem like Mejia is a malingerer or is merely inventing reasons not to play. Bunions on his foot may seem a tad questionable but Terry Collins claims Mejia’s most recent injury swelled up faster than anything he had seen previously. And no one should doubt the severity of injuries that required two different types of elbow surgeries.
We need to look no further than Frank Francisco for a guy who seemed to take an excessively long time to get back on the field. In my mind, Mejia is no Francisco. Outside of Mets history, it also seems safe to say that Mejia is no Chris Brown, a player that teammates nicknamed “The Tin Man” for his propensity to be constantly injured in the oddest of ways, including missing games with a bruised tooth and a sore eyelid.
But is he another Nick Johnson? A one-time phenom for the Yankees, Johnson constantly was on the DL. In his healthiest season, he put up a .290/.428/.520 line in 628 PA. The problem was he was snakebit, with seemingly a different injury in every year. Here’s a partial list of his injuries: strained right hand, left wrist, broken hand, back strain, broken cheekbone, right heel contusion, broken leg, right wrist, right hamstring.
Is Mejia destined for a Johnson-type career?
We saw firsthand what Mejia is capable of in his five-game stint with the Mets last year. He had a 2.30 ERA, a 1.171 WHIP and a 6.75 K/BB ratio. Anybody who saw that and doesn’t want to see more of him is crazy. Anyone who isn’t worried about his ability to stay on the field right now isn’t being honest.
Pitchers get injured and freak things happen to everyone on the baseball diamond. And guys who can play a full season year after year without winding up on the DL are the exception and not the rule. But Mejia missed virtually the entire 2011 season, his 2013 season started late and ended early and 2014 is off to what can best be called a shaky start on the injury front with the bunions and forearm issues.
Perhaps Mejia misses no time because of the latest injury and is able to stake his claim to a starting job. That’s certainly my preferred outcome. Yet it’s hard not to worry what’s coming next. A healthy Mejia has the potential to be great. But we have to deal in reality, not best-case scenarios held together with spit and duct tape.
And on March 29 we can be grateful that the aesthetically unpleasing yet currently healthy Daisuke Matsuzaka is still on the roster. Heading into today’s final exhibition game, Matsuzaka has allowed just 4 BB in 18.2 IP. That’s quite a nice change from his debut with the Mets, when he surrendered 7 BB in his first 12.1 IP and drove all of us crazy.
It’s a good Plan B and a nice change of pace from other positions where we don’t even have a good Plan A. Still, here’s hoping we get to see Mejia pitch a full season in the majors with the Mets, at least once in his career in Queens.