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.    

Mike Moustakas sets Royals single-season record with 37th home run

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Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas belted his 37th home run on Wednesday evening, setting a new club record for homers in a single season. Moustakas had been tied with Steve Balboni, who hit 36 home runs in 1985.

The home run came on a 2-0, 82 MPH slider from Blue Jays reliever Carlos Ramirez, boosting the Royals’ lead to 13-0 in the top of the sixth inning.

Moustakas, 29, entered the night batting .271/.313/.523 with 82 RBI and 71 runs scored in 560 plate appearances.

Chris Sale records his 300th strikeout this season

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Red Sox starter Chris Sale recorded his 300th strikeout of the 2017 season on Wednesday night against the Orioles. The momentous occasion occurred with two outs in the eighth inning. Facing Ryan Flaherty, Sale threw a slider that caught the strike zone low and inside for called strike three.

Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strikeout 300-plus batters in a season in the last 15 years. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson accomplished the feat in 2002, and Johnson also did it in 2001 and 2000. Pedro Martinez had been the only other Red Sox pitcher to have a 300-strikeout season.

Through eight scoreless innings, Sale limited the Orioles to four hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts. The Red Sox offense gave him plenty of run support. Mookie Betts and Devin Marrero each hit two-run home runs in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez added a two-run double in the sixth and Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run double of his own in the eighth to make it 8-0.