During his rain delay visit to the broadcast booth Thursday night, Sandy Alderson said rehabbing pitcher Jenrry Mejia is being moved to Buffalo and could wind up in the Mets bullpen later this season. This begs the question: ultimately, should Mejia be a starter or a reliever?
Mejia was pretty much always a starter until 2010 when the Mets decided to bring him North with the team at age 20, placing him in the bullpen. He did not fare well — in 33 games (including three spot-starts) Mejia pitched to a 4.62 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 20 walks, allowing 46 hits in 39 innings. He clearly was not ready and was sent back down in June.
He has been a starter ever since, pitching well until requiring Tommy John surgery a year ago.
There is debate in the organization over whether Mejia’s future is as a starter or in the bullpen. Obviously if he is physically unable to pitch for more than a couple of innings at a time, then he would be a reliever. Conversely, if he is physically unable to pitch every day, then he would be a starter. But let’s assume he is perfectly healthy. Where should be go?
Whenever I consider such debates I think back to the dilemma the Yankees faced with Joba Chamberlain. One baseball man — I can’t remember who, exactly — said in effect, “You got a guy with his stuff. He should be a starter. Middle relievers are a dime a dozen.”
These really are words of wisdom and apply to Mejia now. Unless the Mets plan on making him a closer, why waste him as a middle reliever? That job is generally for mediocre pitchers, as we are seeing now in the Mets bullpen. Mejia’s stuff is electric; it would be a shame seeing him mopping up the sixth and seventh innings.
However, the Mets have depth in the minors of potentially spectacular young starters, so perhaps they could better utilize Mejia in the bullpen, and buck the trend that middle relievers are mediocre journeymen. It could serve the Mets best, but it might not serve Mejia best.
Whatever the Mets decide, I hope they take Mejia’s own opinion into account. The last promising young starter the Mets forced into a bullpen role was Aaron Heilman. Even when things were going well for him, he often expressed his desire to start. He looked miserable as a reliever, and I always thought his unhappiness with his role lead to his inevitable collapse as a pitcher.