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.    

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.