PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Jenrry Mejia’s throwing program while working at the Mets’ academy in the Dominican Republic might actually have been more advanced than had he been at camp.
So the 23-year-old Mejia will be able to quickly jump into Grapefruit League games upon arriving at Mets camp now that his visa issue has been resolved.
New York Mets
Mejia was randomly screened for an age and identity check as part of the visa process and has been cleared, a Mets spokesman has said.
Jeurys Familia said he has spoken with Mejia and expects the right-hander to arrive in Port St. Lucie today or Friday.
“He’s a little down because of what happened with the visa in the Dominican,” Familia said. “But … he tried to get ready [so] when the visa is good, he’ll be OK over here, he’ll be ready for spring training.”
Mejia threw 1 2/3 innings, requiring 25 pitches, Wednesday at the Mets’ Dominican complex. Warthen said Mejia’s first Grapefruit League action likely would come in relief to ease him into Florida action, but Mejia shortly thereafter will move back to a starting role.
The Mets intend for Mejia to work as a starting pitcher at Triple-A Las Vegas should he not make the major league roster, but Mejia’s long-term role still widely is projected in the bullpen. Both Wally Backman, who managed Mejia last season in Buffalo, and Warthen believe Mejia will end up a reliever.
“That is my opinion only,” said Warthen, making it clear he is not speaking for the organization’s brain trust.
Said Backman: “I see him as a bullpen guy, too. But I understand why we started him -- just to give him innings.”
Why start Mejia in the minors in April if he projects as a reliever? For one thing, there may not be a uniform opinion within the organization on Mejia’s ultimate role. Plus, future relievers often work as starting pitchers in the minors so that they can hone their entire pitching arsenal with a regular, predictable workload.
“He’s still developing pitches,” Warthen said. “I think he’ll make the decision as to whether or not he’ll be a starter by the way he performs.”
Mejia, who made his season debut with Buffalo last season on May 30 after returning from Tommy John surgery, had far more success as a starting pitcher last season than in the bullpen -- a 2.75 ERA versus 5.48 ERA.
Mejia’s first three games with Buffalo in 2012 came as a starter. He then made 16 consecutive relief appearances before reverting to a starting role.
“It was tough to be put in one role and then into another role, kind of back and forth,” Backman said. “So I think he might have been a little confused last year. I think a lot of people project him as a bullpen guy. But we wanted to get him innings, because he was hurt that whole year. What role he’s going to fit into is probably undetermined really. It’s probably the [organization’s] needs.
Said Warthen: “He wanted to start. We needed a starter. We felt that was the way he would best use his pitches and get better.”