Sunday, April 17, 2011
Source: Jenrry Mejia almost called up
By Adam Rubin
ATLANTA -- Just how close did the New York Mets come to promoting 21-year-old Jenrry Mejia to take Chris Young's spot in the rotation?
A person involved in the discussion tells ESPNNewYork.com that Mejia was seriously considered to fill in, along with Pat Misch, after Young landed on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. Eventual selection Dillon Gee ended up limiting the Atlanta Braves to one run in 5 2/3 innings. Had Mejia's pitching day lined up for Sunday, Mejia would have been selected, one high-level organization employee said.
That is a testament to just how much Mejia's pitching arsenal has improved since he was at the major league level last season.
Mejia enters his scheduled start Monday for Triple-A Buffalo against Rochester having tossed 12 2/3 scoreless innings over two starts in the International League, with seven hits and five walks allowed and 11 strikeouts.
Particularly notable is that Mejia is seriously diversifying his arsenal. Facing a talented Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup in his last start, Yankees prospects Jesus Montero and Brandon Laird each went 0-for-3. Montero struck out twice. During the outing, Mejia did not depend on his signature fastball, with its cutting action. He threw at least 20 changeups in the game and also routinely threw a curveball for strikes.
"More than 20," Mejia said in Moosic, Pa., a day after the start about the number of changeups he threw against the Triple-A Yankees. "I throw it for a strike now."
Said Buffalo manager Tim Teufel: "He's been very productive with all of his pitches. He's been throwing that cut fastball that he's known for, locating it well. He's been moving the ball in and out. [Wednesday] night he was just awesome. He had a very good curveball, throwing it anytime in the count. What was impressive about him [Wednesday] night as well was his changeup. He probably threw 20, 25 pitches just in changeups and got a real good feel for it. Hitters were very off-balance."
According to Inside Edge data, Mejia threw only 50 percent of his off-speed pitches for strikes at the major league level last season, when he primarily was used as a reliever. The major league average is 61 percent.
As for pitch selection as a Met in 2010, Mejia threw his fastball 76.3 percent of the time, with the changeup used 13.3 percent and curveball 10.3 percent, according to FanGraphs.
But, at least in this year's small sample size, he has been more successful in locating the changeup and curveball in addition to using those pitches more frequently.
A year after the Mets placed Mejia on the Opening Day roster in the bullpen, the Mets this year showed restraint with Mejia and wanted to allow him to develop his secondary pitches in the minors in order to come back with a full complement of pitches to be a major league starter. That's going well, making a call-up viable if the need arises.
"Earlier in the game his changeup was his best pitch," said Dusty Ryan, who caught Mejia's start against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. "He had the most control over that one. But then later on he found his curveball. So he was able to throw that for strikes more often too."
Buffalo pitching coach Ricky Bones echoed that assessment.
"Jenrry has been able to adjust himself into the rotation and been able to command his three pitches," Bones said. "He's pitching ahead. And even when he's behind in the count, he's working on his secondary pitches and is able to throw the changeup and the curveball for a strike. It's a process that he's going to continue to grow into. But the confidence he's getting in himself to use the changeup and the curveball has been a lot better."
Said Mejia: "Every day out there I learn a little bit more. Every day I come here to the stadium, I work on my breaking pitch."
As for when he will ultimately get the call to return to the majors, Mejia said: "I'm doing my job here. When they call me up, I'll be there. I have to do my job anywhere. Whenever they want to call me, I'll be here."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.