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New York Mets Make the Right Move on Jenrry Mejia

The Jenrry Mejia experiment is over in New York…at least for now.

The Mets did the right thing when they sent the 20-year-old rookie to the minors Sunday. While Mejia was an adequate if inconsistent reliever for the Mets this season, GM Omar Minaya’s decision to send him to the minors to start is what’s best for Mejia and the Mets organization in the long term.

Mejia finished strong in his final appearance Sunday, retiring all three Yankees that he faced. The lineup was nothing to sneeze at: Mejia made fast work of Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira.

For the season with the Mets, Mejia’s numbers were acceptable but not spectacular. His raw talent was apparent, but at times his inexperience clearly hurt him. In 30 appearances, Mejia pitched 27 2/3 innings, had an 0-2 record, and had a solid 3.25 ERA. He struck out 17 batters and walked 15 while allowing 29 hits.

The original plan this season was for Mejia to continue to learn in the minors, but Mejia had other plans. He was clearly the Mets strongest pitcher in spring training games and earned a spot on the 25-man roster.

“When we broke camp in spring training we had to put him on the team because the way he was throwing—the best reliever we had going at the time,” Minaya admitted.

At first, Mets manager Jerry Manual was hoping Mejia could be the eighth inning setup man, but Mejia’s youthful inconsistency quickly cost him that job. In recent weeks, the hard throwing hurler was often reduced to mop-up duty, coming in when the Mets were far behind, like in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Yankees.

Now, with the Mets starters going deeper into games and the bullpen improving, Minaya feels the time is right to prepare Mejia for his long term role: starting pitcher.

“Other guys have picked it up and we feel much more comfortable with some of the guys picking it up. We feel comfortable that there’s been some development up here and he has helped us in different situations,” Minaya said. “This is just another step for him that we feel is going to help the team, help him, and help the team long term.”

Mejia seems to be taking his demotion in stride. “I want to be in the major leagues,” he said. “I’ll go down, continue working hard. It’s good because they think about me. They’re not sending me down because I didn’t do my job. I did my job.”

The Mets now know that Mejia can survive at the Major League level. He can face big league hitters without embarrassing himself and he can make a contribution to the team.

Now the young hurler has to go down to AA Binghamton and readjust to being a starting pitcher again. Instead of facing a handful of batters, he has to redevelop the stamina and variety of pitches to go through the opposition’s batting order three or four times a game. Being a starting pitcher requires a different mindset and if that’s going to be his role in the future, it’s time Mejia learned how to do it.

The Mets hope Mejia’s confidence will increase during this minor league stint. This half season in New York gave Mejia a taste of life in the Majors and what it will take to succeed. It’s time for Mejia to apply those lessons, hone his craft and become a bona fide big league starter.

The Mets were right to send Mejia down now. Next spring, when he returns, he can fight for a legitimate spot in the Mets starting rotation. Mets fans are looking forward to Mejia’s return…when he’s ready.

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Strawberry Fields New Hope For New York Mets

The New York Mets finally ended the whole debacle that occurred when Darryl Strawberry, a respected former Met, visited the team in the visitor’s clubhouse in Washington on May 20, to give them an unexpected pep talk-type speech that rubbed some of the current players the wrong way.

Apparently at the time, certain members of the Mets (according to various reports, veteran sluggers Jason Bay and Jeff Francouer) didn’t appreciate Strawberry’s supposed scolding tone in the speech, and didn’t feel so good about the whole situation.

Now Francouer and other players are reaching out to Strawberry to let him know that there are no hard feelings, and that Strawberry would be welcomed back anytime.

If I were the rest of the Mets, I would go along with Francouer.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but since Strawberry’s visit, the Mets are 6-1 which includes two wins over the reigning World Series champs in the New York Yankees, as well as a sweep over the division leaders and reigning NL Champs, the Philadelphia Phillies. In fact, the Mets actually blanked the Phils for the entire series.

I know it is still early in the season, but after Strawberry’s visit, the talks of manager Jerry Manuel being fired have slowly drifted away, and the Mets are now just two games out of first in the NL East.

With the success the Mets have been having, they should theoretically have no problem walking all over Milwaukee in the next series, and all of a sudden the Mets may be considered “a playoff contender.”

Welcome back to New York “Citi,” Darryl.

–Mark Elliot Wishnia

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New York Yankees: Feeling Down in the “Slumps”

Right now “the New York Yankees” doesn’t have the same ring to it as it did in the start of the year. The Yankees have now lost five of their last seven games and have fallen to five games behind the Rays in the A.L. East.

The injury bug has been a real pest a majority of the season. But everyone kept talking about how important it was for other players to step up… and they were. Everyone was talking about how fantastic the starting pitching was for this club, and it certainly has been a big help.

But in the past week things are changing – add Jorge Posada to the list of injuries.

Then look at everyone else in the lineup. Francisco Cervelli, who I have talked up since February, is now batting just .227 during this seven-game skid. There isn’t much help around him. Derek Jeter is batting just .250 in the last week, Gardner is batting .233, Teixeira is batting .138, Randy Winn is hitting just .273, in addition to his misplayed ball in Saturday night’s loss.

Nick Swisher has finally found himself back in the lineup and is hitting lefty again, but he looks a little lost after the missed time.

But really, the starting pitching seems to be the unanimous answer for the recent success the Yankees,  despite the dramatic difference in the lineup between Opening Day and now.

AJ Burnett allowed six runs the other day, Andy Pettitte allowed seven runs, Phil Hughes allowed four, and Javier Vazquez who is finally pitching well, now has a bruised finger.

Everything seems to be going wrong for the Yankees all at the same time. Many of the hitters are slumping, and even the last starts for the starters are poor. Even Mariano Rivera has struggled a bit.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Granderson should be back in a couple of weeks to replace missing depth in the lineup. But a “couple of weeks” could mean up to 14 games.

The Yankees starters certainly need to get back on track, and the Yankees hitters need to get going. We wouldn’t expect it from Winn. But in times like this, you hope your captain could be doing better than .250. And I don’t know where Teixeira went… but someone better go and find him.

The Yankees travel to Minnesota next. It won’t be easy. The worst part of it all is that it seems the Rays will just never go away. And the Blue Jays are only two games behind the Yankees at the moment.

It’s a bumpy ride for the Yankees, and the seat belts seem to be broken.

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MLB Update: Phil Hughes Has New York On Fire

New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes has dominated thus far into the 2010 season. Starting with a 5-0 record (best on the squad) and a 2.25 ERA on the year—Hughes has been lighting it up in the fifth spot for the red-hot Yanks.

Despite struggling against the Boston Red Sox, Hughes still managed not to lose the game and finished with a no decision. He pitched four innings and allowed five earned runs with three strike outs. The Yankees came away with the victory, though, with outfielder Marcus Thames hitting a walk-off jack against Jonathan Papelbon in the botton of the ninth.

Many didn’t expect Phil Hughes to start the season with this much succes—but you can guarantee that the Bronx Bombers are loving every minute of it.

After moving fourth starter Javier Vazquez to the bullpen (with his 8.01 ERA), the Yankees will be relying more on their young-gun to pick up the slack.

If Hughes keeps up the pace, he’ll be moving up in the rotation soon enough.

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Time for Mets To Send Ollie’s Follies To the Minors

The time has come for the New York Mets to end the Oliver Perez experiment once again.

Perez has not proven himself ready to be a consistent Major League pitcher. He cannot do the one thing pitchers need to be able to do to stay in the Majors: throw strikes.

With 25 walks in 30 innings, Perez’s walks per nine innings is a dismal 7.5. Very few pitchers can survive by giving away that many base on balls and Perez is no exception.

Ollie has six starts this season, and is averaging only five innings per start. While very few starters go more than six or seven innings anymore in this age of overcautious ball clubs who micromanage pitch counts, Perez’s failure to go deep into games has helped wear out an already overtaxed Mets bullpen.

Because Perez both strikes out and walks a lot of batters, his pitch count is always high. In five of his six starts this year, he has thrown more than 90 pitches and only once has he thrown fewer than 75. Despite this, he still can’t throw deep into games because of his wildness.

The Mets are 1-5 in Perez’s six starts this season. While this is not all Ollie’s fault, the fact is that the because of Perez’s inability to find the plate, the Mets give the opposition extra chances to drive in runs and that decreases the Mets chances to win. Let’s face it; good teams are going to take full advantage of these extra opportunities.

I’ve heard the arguments for Perez. He has the best stuff of any Mets starter. Lefties take longer to mature and develop (see Sandy Koufax in Brooklyn). I will cede both points quite readily. But that doesn’t mean the Mets should continue to send Perez to the mound every fifth day. Send Ollie down to AAA Buffalo and let him regain the control and composure he showed back in 2007 when he went 15-10 and only walked four batters per nine innings.

Of course, if the Mets send Ollie down, GM Omar Minaya is practically admitting he made a mistake in re-signing Perez when he came up for free agency prior to the 2009 season. Still, it is better to send Perez down to correct his problems than have him pitch poorly each time he takes the mound for the Mets.

The Mets are not a team with so much talent that they can afford to practically give away one game out of five. If they continue to keep Perez in the rotation that is practically what they are going to do. Send him down, let him work on his mechanics and give someone else a chance to pitch while the Mets are still in the NL East race. His replacement certainly can’t do any worse than Ollie already has. The Mets bullpen, players and fans all deserve better.

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