Mets Diamond Notes: Jenrry Mejia to Start September 19th, Strasburg Shut Down

By Matt Musico

Jenrry Mejia, who made his first appearance for the Mets in almost two years on Friday, is set to get his first shot at starting a game a week from Wednesday. Mejia is slated to start on the 19th against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, putting the 22-year-old into the rotation likely goes hand-in-hand with Matt Harvey reaching his innings limit, as he only has two starts left before his season is finished.

Terry Collins also said that he’d like to give Jeurys Familia a start, but may use two starters in one game, allowing one to go five innings and the other to come in to throw the final four. The Mets may do that for Mejia’s start, or even one of Chris Young‘s last starts. Although Collins has made plans to start Familia before the end of the season, pitching coach Dan Warthen hasn’t agreed upon it yet. At this point, the Mets need to give him a start, just to see how his stuff will perform against MLB hitters over multiple innings. Coming in relief to pitch four innings isn’t a bad idea to increase his pitch count after being in the bullpen for a week, but that’s not the same as pitching in the first inning and having his focus being on starting a game.

September 7, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia (32) walks off the field after pitching the eighth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Meanwhile, top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler was at Citi Field yesterday accepting his Sterling Organizational Award, and told the media he’d like to push himself to try and make the starting rotation out of Spring Training, knowing it’s a bit of a long shot. Between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, Wheeler went 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA, and struck out 148 hitters in 149 innings pitched. Coming out of camp next spring, Wheeler will likely be in the same boat that Harvey was, as he’ll go back to Triple-A to work on his control, and be called up in the second half if there is a hole in the rotation for him to fill.

Stephen Strasburg has had a fantastic year for the first-place Nationals, going 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA, striking out 197 hitters in 159.1 innings pitched. He was scheduled to have one last start this season, taking place September 12th at Citi Field, but after giving up 5 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 3 innings on Friday against the Marlins, manager Davey Johnson made the executive decision to shut down his ace for the season, noting that the impending limit was starting to affect him as much mentally as it was physically. So, instead of facing the 2012 All-Star Wednesday, New York will face lefty John Lannan instead.

Since this is his first full year of pitching coming off Tommy John surgery, this innings limit makes sense. Strasburg obviously is a piece of the puzzle for the future and the Nationals want to take care of him, but this had to be a tough decision. No one thought Washington was going to be this good, this quickly, so when they announced the innings limit at the start of the season, the position they’re in now couldn’t have been anticipated. I applaud the front office for sticking by their decision. However, as a player, this hurts a lot. At some point in his career, Strasburg will understand it, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever be able to accept it. Getting primed for a playoff run, he just wants to help his team, and there is no guarantee that a team will make trips to the playoffs year after year, as we saw with the teams after the 2006 Mets. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the Nats going into the postseason.