Mets Diamond Notes: Mejia’s Start Comes Earlier; Bay Helps Dickey’s Cy Young Chances?

By Matt Musico

Instead of getting his first MLB start in just over two years in the middle of next week, Terry Collins announced yesterday that Jenrry Mejia will be starting for the Mets this Saturday in Milwaukee. Coincidentally enough, that will mark exactly two years to the day that the 22-year-old made his last start in the Big Leagues.

Although the Mets still see Mejia as a reliever in the long-term with the organization, inserting him into the rotation now will allow him to get at least three starts before the end of the season. It’s only fair to see how he fares, as he compiled a 2.75 ERA in 10 starts and 5.48 ERA in 16 relief appearances with Triple-A Buffalo this season. What makes me scratch my head is the rationale provided for putting Jeremy Hefner back in the bullpen. Although he threw 157 innings in Triple-A last season and only has 140 IP in 2012, the Mets cited his innings as the reasoning to have him be a reliever for now, even though Collins mentioned he will be inserted back into the rotation later this month once Matt Harvey is shut down. However, Collin McHugh, who’s struggled in his last two starts, will remain in the rotation, even though his 163.1 IP have already exceeded his total from 2011 (156.1).

Sept 2, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets left fielder

Jason Bay

(44) is unable to make a catch in foul territory during the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Typically, jumps of 30 IP per year is acceptable; the front office just didn’t want Hefner in the rotation for right now, but I wish they would just say the real reason because they clearly talked out of both sides of their mouth here. The number of pitches Hefner has thrown in the bullpen could have an effect on his use down the stretch, but no one mentioned that. Having Mejia and McHugh get the majority of the starts down the stretch may mean Sandy Alderson feels they have more upside in the trade market than Hefner, and a solid September run could increase that.

On the other hand, Jeurys Familia will get a start in the final week of the season, but the exact date has not yet been determined. In 137 IP for the Bisons this year, the righty hurler went 9-9 with a 4.73 ERA in 28 starts. Since he lacks a third pitch, the Mets also figure Familia to project out to being a reliever in the long-term, but Collins is interested to see how he handles starting a game. That’s all well and good, but if he’s going to be a reliever (which looks more solid than it does for Mejia), why not just use him out of the bullpen? One start may sound harmless, but don’t even get the kid’s hopes up. In four innings out of the ‘pen, Familia has a 4.50 ERA while striking out four hitters. He has the stuff to be a reliever, so start developing him now as one instead of going back and forth with different options.

Why was Jason Bay in the lineup against right-hander Jordan Zimmermann last night, you ask? It was the first time in over a month we saw Bay in the lineup against a pitcher that wasn’t left-handed, but Terry Collins said that him and Andres Torres are two of the best defensive outfielders he has, and he wants to provide that to R.A. Dickey as he pursues 20 wins and a Cy Young award. Collins said that he owes it to his knuckleballer to give him the best chance at reaching that plateau. Bay is hitting better against righties (.168 BA) than lefties (.152 BA), but he went 0-for-3 last night with a strikeout, while leaving 3 runners on base. I do agree with Collins’ logic; Dickey’s quest to 20 wins is one of the few things the Mets have to play for this month, so why not do all you can to help make it happen?