Even without Matt Harvey, the New York Mets have themselves a fine rotation with Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and free-agent newcomer Bartolo Colon set to anchor the staff. However, one question mark that remains is who will grab hold of the fifth spot?
Terry Collins has publicly stated that he would like to have a veteran presence for the fifth spot and is leaning toward tabbing either Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lannan for the spot. It’s not a terrible line of thinking, considering when healthy, Matsuzaka and Lannan have made for dependable arms in the past.
However, the thinking here should be that Jenrry Mejia is ready to blossom and he should be given every chance to claim the spot. But for whatever reason, he is not.
Mejia’s potential for success could prove to be the x-factor for the Mets this year. After starting five games last season and doing well (compiling a 2.30 ERA and fanning 27 batters in 27 1/3 innings) in his time in the rotation last year, Mejia had to be shutdown with elbow soreness. He would go on to get surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.
It looks like Mejia is healthy now, though, and has done well in spring training thus far. He has pitched four innings while giving up only one unearned run on one hit and two walks. Seeing as though you should want the best pitcher to win the spot, he should be the one to get the most consideration.
With the way he ended 2013, Mejia should be given the chance to earn this role. He earned that much. I mean, what if he continues to dazzle during the spring while Matsuzaka and Lannan struggle? What then? Will Collins’ opinion be swayed on wanting a veteran no matter what?
One would hope he is not that stubborn.
Simply put, putting Mejia in the bullpen is a mistake. The Mets put him there back in 2010 and it was disastrous. Mejia has starter stuff and it would be a waste if they shuttle him to the back end of the bullpen.
While one can appreciate the veteran services of Matsuzaka and Lannan, most Mets’ fans want to truly see what they have in Mejia. Between his years with debilitating injuries, being jettisoned between the rotation and the bullpen and being shuttled back in forth in the minors, it’s time we give Mejia his chance at starter. If not now, then when?
With the likes of Niese, Wheeler, Colon and Gee ahead of him, Mejia will not feel any undue pressure and he can go about his business in a normal-like fashion. This way, even if he does succeed it would only enhance his value and with the Mets having a young, stable of crops of reinforcements (Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, etc.) only a call away, Mejia could be a great bargaining chip. And with Harvey presumably back next year, the time is ripe to showcase Mejia.
If Mejia goes to the bullpen, at this point it should be for good. And that inherently is the problem. With Mejia still in prime position to make an impact in the rotation you should give him every chance to lock down the fifth spot. If he goes to the bullpen that may be the end of him as a starter, at least with the Mets.
And that’s too bad.