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.    

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.