Jenrry Mejia impresses in spring debut

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Don’t tell Craig, but there are some other exciting prospects playing in the Grapefruit League besides Jason Heyward.

One of them is Mets right-hander Jenrry Mejia. The 20-year-old Dominican has generated some considerable buzz, most notably from Darryl Strawberry earlier this week:

“I went to Omar and told him, ‘You’ve got to make this guy a
closer,'” Strawberry was saying in animated fashion Tuesday. “I’d
definitely put him in the pen this year, I don’t care if he’s only 20.
He’s got a pitch that guys can’t hit.

“He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen that reminds me of Mariano Rivera.”

He’s setting the bar impossibly high here, of course, but we all had a chance to get a look at him against the Marlins on Friday. And he was impressive. Mejia tossed 2 1/3 perfect innings of relief, throwing 19 of his 21 pitches for strikes while fanning four.

It’s only one outing, but it was enough for Jerry Manuel to say this:

“Wooo, wooo, man oh man,” Manuel said. “I told y’all. The eighth inning would look pretty good for Mejia, wouldn’t it?”

The whole idea was unthinkable just over a week ago, but for a club without a set-up man, maybe it’s not so crazy anymore.

Mejia was 4-6 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.31 ERA between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton last season and has been used exclusively as a starting pitcher over the past two seasons. Nobody will question his electric stuff, but control has been his major bugaboo (3.9 BB/9 over his first three professional seasons, including 4.7 BB/9 in 44 1/3 innings with Binghamton). Still, he’s the kind of guy who can overpower hitters, like we saw today, mostly with one pitch.

His secondary stuff is well behind — as evidenced by some erratic curves thrown during Friday’s contest — so he’s far from a finished product, but Rivera has proven that a reliever can make a career out of one great pitch. It’s a tantalizing idea, especially if Ryota Igarashi can’t handle the job or Kiko Calero is as unhealthy as the whispers suggest, but for an organization that hasn’t developed a star starting pitcher since the 80s, I’m hoping the Mets allow him to round out his arsenal in the minor leagues, as a starting pitcher.    

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.