Jenrry Mejia As Reliever?

In case you missed it, on Friday afternoon Adam Rubin of ESPN-NY reported that Dan Warthen envisions Jenrry Mejia’s future in a big-league bullpen — not a starting rotation.

So glad we’re all on the same page, guys. We wouldn’t want to continue to mess with the kid’s head, right?

Personally, I don’t know where Mejia ultimately belongs. The one thing I “see” in his future are a number of DL stints, due to his violent, inefficient pitching mechanics. Mejia began experiencing shoulder problems before he had the chance to legally drink a beer, and assuming he doesn’t change his motion, those issues could become chronic. We’ll see if any adjustments are made this spring, but I’m doubting it, considering that Warthen described Mejia’s delivery as “solid and repeatable” this time last year.

If Mejia will be prone to arm issues going forward, in which role is he more suited — reliever or starter? Hard to say, because there are pluses and minuses to both. On the one hand, being a starter means a pitcher is on a set routine, and generally speaking, the body has a better chance of not breaking down when it has been properly conditioned to perform a particular activity at consistent intervals. With that in mind, as a starter making 100 pitches every fifth day (and following a strict throwing program on the other four), Mejia’s schedule is more likely to be consistent than if he were a reliever who might throw 10 pitches one day, 35 the next, then go four days without throwing at all, etc.

But, considering that Mejia’s mechanics are less than ideal, and he’s already suffered shoulder problems, there’s a good possibility that he’ll be prone to an overuse injury (“overuse” meaning moving the same body parts the same way over and over; not “overuse” as we defined Jerry Manuel’s bullpen strategy). In other words, if Mejia throws 100 pitches every 5 days, that’s at least 600 pitches a month (actually, much more when you consider warmups and throwing on off-days). Maybe his arm will break down more quickly with that kind of load, in which case it could be a better plan to use him out of the bullpen, where he’s likely to throw about one-half (or less) of that volume.

Twelve of this, dozen of that …

Trying to properly manage and develop a perfectly healthy young pitcher with acceptable mechanics is difficult enough and not without controversy. But when the subject in question is already damaged goods, and displays a self-destructive delivery, I don’t know that there is any “right” answer.

If it were me in charge, I’d try to adjust Mejia’s mechanics and put him on a very strict, progressive throwing program that consisted of only fastballs and changeups. The problem is that it’s difficult to completely overhaul a pitcher’s mechanics, and it takes an extraordinarily long time to re-learn good habits while losing bad ones — which is why you see so many fouled-up deliveries in pro ball these days. Good young pitching is expensive and rare, and the longer a pitcher goes using bad mechanics, the longer it will take to correct them. So most teams find it much more economical to work with what they have, make minor tweaks, set low pitch counts, and hope for the best. The shame with Mejia, of course, is that the Mets had the chance to get him on the right path, since they signed him as a 17-year-old. But that’s water under the bridge, and all the Mets can do now is keep their fingers crossed. Who knows, maybe Mejia won’t have chronic arm problems, and will turn into a solid MLB starter — or reliever.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 February 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm
    It’s pretty clear that Dan Warthen’s a dope.

    Give him enough time, and that’s pretty evident….as we see him continuing along with comments like the one he made toward the end of last week.

    (Think: “John Maine is a habitual liar about his health” / “I’ll scare my pitchers into throwing more strikes”.) — idiotic quotes, but not necessarily things that we didn’t believe/want to try out ourselves, as unpaid fanatics of this team.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with his sentiment on Mejia, but what the point was – in “assessing” anything right now… anyone’s guess.

    Ultimately, Mejia will be the driver of his own destiny.

    However, in having seen a bunch of his appearances last year, I’d agree that his mechanics are awful.

    Whether it’s starting off on an extreme side of the rubber, over-rotation in his actual delivery [you said it, Joe: strained rotator-cuff already? hmmm….], or finishing position after his release and follow-through [remember that game where he was completely out of position — he’ll never field anything if he continues with the same mechanics] — there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

    When you see stuff like this, it makes you even more enraged to know they rushed him last year….for nothing.

    Hopefully, his time at Triple-A this season will be utilized to work well with (and learn from) Ricky Bones.

    • Joe Janish February 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm
      I don’t know that Dan Warthen is a dope … from what I understand he is pretty good at helping young pitchers learn the mental side of the game.He seems to be a dinosaur — i.e., the type of pitching coaches we saw in the 1970s, who didn’t really do much in terms of studying mechanical efficiency nor in understanding the importance of strict throwing programs.

      As for Mejia in AAA with Ricky Bones: is there a successful MLB pitcher who spent considerable time with Bones? He’s been with the organization for several years, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any particular “success stories” that he had a hand in.

  2. Walnutz15 February 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm
    I like Bones.

    Niese has tipped his cap to him in the past, crediting the development of his cutter to working with him.

    It’s actually a MARVEL (not even just a “wonder”) to me, that Warthen – of all coaches – survived the cuts. He’s done nothing with our young pitchers, save for a brief period of “Good Ollie” in his contract year – which we all know is smoke and mirrors until he implodes.

    • Curtis February 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm
      I don’t get it, either, but apparently when Alderson was evaluating the staff to decide who to retain, three of the Mets’ pitchers BEGGED him to keep Warthen. Nobody else got that kind of support, and Warthen got the golden ticket.
  3. Walnutz15 February 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm
    To be honest, R.A. Dickey headed to Buffalo as a sketchy signing last Spring.

    Not that Bones has much experience with knuckle-ballers, but he spent a fair amount of time with him there – prior to call-up by the 2010 club.

    I like to think that he’s had a good amount of success in conveying messages to his pitchers — though, there hasn’t been a ton of long-term major league success from his pupils.

    [Then again, I’m just not a fan of Dan Warthen, period. Guy got a new life, based off of an anomaly last year… will be hard to replicate the same kind of numbers this year from the starting rotation.]

    • Mark McGwire February 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm
      Ricky Bones may be able to get some undetectable PEDs for Mejia
      • Walnutz15 February 15, 2011 at 7:59 am
  4. Timo February 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm
    Bullpen or Starter…..I didn’t get to see Mejia much last year but when i did he was up and down. What i remember is that he has velocity but don’t remember if he changed speeds well or had another pitch (other than fastball). If he only has heat and nothing else then the bullpen is for him and we should waste our time with starting him (AKA Joba Chamberlin, yanks really messed that guy up). Even though he’s young everyone needs bullpen help and if he destin to be there then bring him up now. He wasn’t horrible last year but then was that impressive BUT the Mets are going no where this year. Get the kid some experience. If he blows out his arm then at least we’ll know what we had.
  5. mrtasan February 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm
    i dont think he has the stamina or composure to last 6 innings or 3 times through the lineup…i wasn’t impressed when he came up last year for a couple of stints…

    let him develop or increase his value and then trade him…

  6. kranepool February 15, 2011 at 9:32 am
    I agree with you on Mejia’ mechanics they are a mess but he also needs to learn how to pitch. Last year the Mets did the wost thing they could possiblly by rushing him. If anything Mejia needs innings under his belt.

    By the way after meeting Rick Peterson this past weekend and talking to him about pitching I wish he was back in the Mets org

  7. Rich Morey February 17, 2011 at 1:28 am
    Mejia should be a starter. Right now the Mets have Santana, Pelfrey and who? for their starting 5. Perez is a headcase who should be shipped out off town for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the M E T S Mets Mets Mets don’t have a shot to contend any time soon but Mejia looks like he could be a dominate starter. Don’t mess with his head the way the Bronx Bombers did with Joba / the “Joba Rules”.. Let him go out there every five days and get it done.