Despite not having pitched yet this spring, the immediate future of Jenrry Mejia appears to be in doubt. Since early on in Spring Training, manager Terry Collins has made reference to either Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lannan being the frontrunners to earn the first spot in the rotation. This was met with some pretty stout criticism amongst Mets fans who envisioned the youngster (still just 24) earning the spot with little challenge.
Mejia entered the spring still rehabbing from an elbow surgery that prematurely ended his 2013 campaign. Although brief, Mejia's five starts last year were very impressive. Pitching to a 2.30 ERA, Mejia managed to strike out 27 over 27.1 innings pitched while walking just four. Those are big numbers for a once top flight pitching prospect who hasn't been able to take hold at the major league level.
Last year, he seized that moment. It was clear that despite all his injuries, to include Tommy John surgery in 2011, Mejia had learned to pitch instead of just throwing. Now, it appears he could be banished to the bullpen once more. Even worse, according to ESPN's Adam Rubin there is a possibility Mejia could wind up in AAA Las Vegas if the Mets chose to round out the bullpens with veterans.
Its a head scratching move, and one likely pushed forward by the fact that both Matsuzaka and Lannan have opt-out clauses in their deals if they're not on the major league roster by a certain date. Should both walk, the Mets perceived starting pitching depth would take a major hit. However, since the battle cry is now 90 wins (don't believe that for a second), wouldn't it make sense to have the best arm in the rotation, assuming Mejia is healthy?
Mejia's injury history cannot be denied. He may never make it through an entire season. For that reason the Mets may not be able to depend on him. Perhaps that plays into this decision, but I find it hard to believe that either Matsuzaka or Lannan make the Mets a better team. If he's healthy enough to do so, Mejia for both his age and his talent, should be the fifth starter. Instead the Mets appear destined to trot out a league average replacement instead.