Mets, Mejia looking forward as reliever returns
Former closer wants to put suspension in past, bolster bullpen
SAN FRANCISCO -- Quietly, Jenrry Mejia made his way around the Mets clubhouse Tuesday, stopping not at every locker, but at the ones that matter most to him. In those corners, Mejia offered his apologies for missing 80 games due to a performance-enhancing-drug suspension, which officially ended Tuesday.
Mejia did not apologize publicly, saying only that the issue is "in the past." But he did apologize to his teammates.
"It's not like we're dealing with an awful person," said teammate Bobby Parnell, the longest-tenured member of the bullpen. "He's a good person. He's genuine. When a guy like that apologizes, it's sincere. I don't think he's blowing smoke up our butts. He's here to pitch."
That much Mejia will do immediately. The Mets activated him Tuesday and optioned Logan Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas, despite Verrett's 0.73 ERA in six appearances. Manager Terry Collins may wait a few games to slot Mejia back into high-leverage situations, but it should not be long before he is a staple of the seventh and eighth innings.
As far as Mejia and the Mets are concerned, his suspension and its fallout are already in the past.
"I'm here to play baseball," Mejia said, laughing and even cracking jokes throughout a seven-minute press conference. "That's all I want."
"He's here to give us another option at the end of the bullpen and hopefully get some big outs," manager Terry Collins said.
Prior to his suspension and the disabled-list stint that preceded it, Mejia was the Mets' unquestioned closer. He saved 28 games in 31 chances a year ago, posting a 2.72 ERA after shifting from the starting rotation to the bullpen. That made him the obvious choice for ninth-inning duties coming into this season, at least until Parnell returned from Tommy John surgery.
But Mejia's injury and subsequent suspension gave Jeurys Familia a chance at closer, which he seized without looking back, earning a spot in the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote. So now the Mets are looking at how Mejia can help them in a setup role, much as Parnell has been doing for the past few weeks.
"I've known him for a long time," Parnell said. "I consider him a friend. So I welcome him back. I'm glad he's part of this team. As time goes, this is going to disappear. Our goals are the same, to get to the playoffs and be in the playoffs."
Apology or not, the Mets and Mejia are only looking forward.
"He made a mistake," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "He admitted that. He's paid a penalty. Whether I think he needs to express some public contrition or not? I know that privately, he's done so. I've talked to him, and as far as I'm concerned, it's over."