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NEW YORK -- The Mets' Joba tapped his glove twice in celebration. He looked to the sky, with his right palm and glove raised. He pumped his fist and casually pointed his right index finger up.
The 20-year-old phenom, Jenrry Mejia, had just zapped Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, turning one-out, seventh-inning trouble into Citi Field exhilaration.
At the same time -- unbeknownst to him -- Mejia likely saved his spot in the majors because the indecisive Mets have postponed plans to send him down to the minors to prepare for a role as a starter ... at least for the time being.
In the next inning, Jerry Manuel turned to Frankie Rodriguez for a five-out save. Manuel had limited options.
"We said, 'Let's just give it to him,'" Manuel said of his and pitching coach Dan Warthen's thinking.
After some John Franco-like trouble, K-Rod eventually escaped the eighth. In the ninth, with the tying runs on, he struck out Francisco Cervelli to finalize the Mets' 5-3 win over the Yankees.
K-Rod did his own little postgame act, kissing his hands and looking to the sky. For Manuel and the Mets, it was a win from the heavens.
For a 24-hours news cycle, they changed the storyline from "When will Manuel and Omar Minaya be fired?" to "Can the Mets take the first Subway Series of 2010?"
This qualifies as spectacular news for a desperate team with a desperate owner, a desperate GM and a desperate manager. They needed a win, any win. They got it, even if their closer remained in denial over their level of desperation.
"We are not desperate," said K-Rod, adding that the word is negative and hoping a reporter wouldn't use it again.
|Francisco Rodriguez gave thanks after locking down the Mets' win with a five-out save.|
If the Mets are anything they are desperate. Their misuse of Mejia is probably the largest example of how they are trying to Band-Aid 2010 into a meaningful season.
Mejia is the Mets' version of Joba Chamberlain, because he can be electric like he was on Saturday night, finishing off Teixeira and A-Rod. At 20, he can flirt with triple digits on the radar gun.
But for those who think the Yankees have ruined Chamberlain with all their rules, the Mets have been potentially more negligent with their lack of structure for Mejia.
An MLB scout told ESPNNewYork.com that the Mets have done the same thing with Mejia that they did with Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez and basically most of their prospects since the Minaya regime took over. They have rushed Mejia, which often can cause long-term problems. Only Ike Davis seems as if his progress hasn't been slowed by the Mets' aggressive promotion policies.
The Mets have been hesitant to use Mejia in too many high-leverage situations, which never made any sense. If you have 97 mph gas in your bullpen, and if you are going to halt his progress as a high-end starter, why wouldn't you at least use him in important spots? Finally, on Saturday night, Manuel turned to Mejia in the seventh.
"The atmosphere was unbelievable," said Rodriguez, who has pitched his share of big games.
There was Mejia in the seventh, asked to preserve what was a three-run lead at the time. He immediately found trouble. Kevin Russo singled. Derek Jeter walked. And a ticket to Buffalo seemed to be printing for Mejia.
Then Mejia went into overdrive. After Brett Gardner grounded out, Mejia struck out Teixeira on a 93 mph 3-2 fastball that tailed out of the zone. Teixeira likely couldn't see it and chased it.
"That's my best pitch right now," Mejia said.
Next, he forced A-Rod to ground out to third on a 96 mph fastball.
Mejia escaped the trouble, avoided going to Triple-A and unwittingly postponed his real dream.
"I want to start," he said.
The Mets don't seem to know exactly what they want Mejia to do. When a manager is desperate, he thinks about winning that night's game and lets someone else think about tomorrow.
Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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