One of the more polarizing on-the-field storylines of spring training reached its likely conclusion last night, as the Mets made a series of cuts that all but guaranteed that 20-year-old right-hander Jenrry Mejia will make the team’s Opening Day roster.
Mejia, ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s No. 1 prospect, has tallied an impressive 1.59 ERA and a 9/3 K/BB ratio over 17 innings this spring. He was originally expected to open the season at Double-A Binghamton as a starting pitcher, but it became pretty clear by manager Jerry Manuel’s rather pavlovian response to Mejia’s efforts that the youngster would be coming north.
Mejia’s talent is undeniable, but if true, I’m afraid that this could very well end up as one of the more short-sighted and irresponsible decisions in the team’s recent history. Remember, the Mets haven’t developed a legitimate homegrown starting pitcher since Dwight Gooden over 20 years ago. I’m just not sure why pitching in the seventh inning should suddenly trump that.
Of course, the jury is still out whether Mejia can actually be a starting pitcher in the major leagues, as his secondary pitches need some work, but that’s exactly why he should be in the minor leagues right now. I can’t wait for the irony of seeing him pitch in a game in which the Mets are getting pounded because their starting pitching has let them down once again.
With this decision, Omar Minaya and Manuel are officially “Thelma and Louise,” as far as I’m concerned, tying their short-term fate to the organization’s most promising right arm. Let’s just hope that Mejia isn’t the car.
Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.
Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.
Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.
Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.
Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).
Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.
While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.