Jerry Manuel finally loosened his grip on the development of top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia, following the Mets 4-0 loss in the Subway Series finale on Sunday, allowing the 20-year-old to return to AA Binghamton to become a starting pitcher again.

Mejia, who was named the Mets top overall prospect by Baseball America in 2009, ahead of Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and Jon Niese among others, had been used sparingly out of the bullpen since making the team as a reliever out of spring training.

Mejia become the youngest pitcher to appear on a Mets’ Opening Day roster since Dwight Gooden, although it remains to be seen if Mejia will ever become the pitching sensation Doc was.

But the bottom line is that Jenrry Mejia should never have been moved to the bullpen in the first place.

Sure, there are positives to look at when reflecting on his time with the big league squad. He got some experience pitching to major league hitters, he learned the nuances of being a major league pitcher from the coaching staff and K-Rod, and at times showed flashes of the talent he has.

However, none of that outweighs the negatives of disrupting the development of your top pitching prospect.

Instead of being in AA Binghamton learning how to pitch, Mejia spent the first 69 game of 2010 in the Mets bullpen, occasionally pitching in a big spot in the seventh inning, (like he did against the Yankees in his final big league game as a reliever) but more often than not he was used once or twice a week and in low-pressure situations.

Jerry Manuel is the culprit for the delay in sending him down, as Manuel had been holding him hostage as he fought to save his job earlier in the season. Most of the Mets brass wanted Mejia to remain and develop as a starter, but Manuel had said that as long as he was here, Mejia would be on the roster.

Selfish? Maybe. If I were Manuel, and I saw a guy who could throw that hard and I was in the last year of my contract, hell, I’d want him up here too.

Lucky for me, I’m not in the last year of my affiliation with the Mets, I’m a lifelong fan and I’m here for the long-term. I’ve said it countless times over the course of the year how bad of a mistake it was to bring Mejia up as a reliever and how frustrating it was that he wasn’t sent down sooner. (Evidence here , here , here and here .)

Mejia burst onto the scene in 2009 when he dominated High-A ball before posting a 9.54 K/9 in AA Binghamton at age 19, leading scouts to pay attention to him as a serious blue-chip prospect.

Not too shabby for a guy who used to shine shoes for a living and never picked up a baseball until he was 15, despite growing up in the baseball-obsessed Dominican Republic.

Nonetheless, it’s obvious Mejia needs to go down and work on his off-speed pitches. With the Mets this year, he threw his fastball about 78% of the time , and with an average velocity of 95.1 mph it’s easy to see why. However, he won’t be an effective major leaguer until he refines his curveball and his changeup so he can keep hitters from sitting on his fastball.

Right now, he’s only thrown 161.1 minor league innings, so he’s pretty much a baby in terms of his development. Hopefully he’ll be able to adapt quickly to his more familiar spot in the starting rotation with the hopes of helping this team down the stretch and in the future as a potential ace.

From the Mets perspective, I expect Bobby Parnell to be recalled to take Mejia’s spot in the bullpen. Parnell was last year’s version of Mejia, a lifelong starting pitcher who was moved to the bullpen in the majors because of his electric stuff, although Parnell has now made a permanent move to the bullpen as will likely remain a reliever long-term.

After losing two of three at Yankee Stadium, the Mets now get to return to Citi Field following a 7-2 road trip to face two tough AL Central teams in Detroit and Minnesota. The Mets have been a terrific home team all season , so hopefully they’ll continue their home dominance against two very good teams and get back on track after losing their first series in quite some time.

(This article was originally posted on my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog and can be found here )

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