Mets hope Mejia can step up, claim closer role
NEW YORK -- The Mets want Jenrry Mejia to be their closer. They're just not willing to assign him that role yet.
Mejia was on call for ninth-inning duties Thursday against the Yankees, but until he demonstrates the ability to pitch on consecutive days as a reliever, the Mets will not name him their full-time closer.
Instead, manager Terry Collins will designate someone each day from a pool including Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Jose Valverde and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Whoever is fresh and pitching well will serve as the closer until one of them -- the Mets' preference is Mejia, but it could be anyone -- claims the job for good.
"If we felt he was ready to go back-to-back days, possibly three days in a row, he would be the guy," Collins said of Mejia. "He is not at that stage."
Part of the issue is that the Mets don't know for sure how Mejia, whose injury history is lengthy, will respond to the rigors of bullpen life. Many of his past issues stemmed from the early portion of his career as a reliever, and general manager Sandy Alderson noted that the Mets can't be certain he is beyond them until he proves it.
"We haven't seen him yet this year," Alderson said. "So I think Terry will be careful with him, but ultimately if he's going to be in that role, he's going to have to be available on a consistent basis. The first time we use him on a back-to-back basis, we'll see how he responds."
The Mets have already cycled through three closers this season, going from Bobby Parnell to Valverde to Kyle Farnsworth, who elected free agency after the Mets outrighted him Wednesday. Both Collins and Alderson consider it important to establish a full-time closer, with Alderson going as far as to say he would like to find someone to pitch the ninth even beyond this season -- the insinuation being that Parnell's job may not be waiting for him when he returns from injury next spring.
"It is important," Collins said. "We've talked so much about the game today and the importance of knowing your role when you come to the ballpark, when you're going to pitch, whether you're the setup guy or the seventh-inning guy or the left-handed specialist, whatever it may be. Those guys like to walk into the ballpark knowing exactly where they fit. Right now, I can't tell them that."
Added Alderson: "We'd love to have somebody emerge in that role who will be a fixture for some period of time -- not just this season, but perhaps longer than that. I don't think we're there yet.
"If you look at our bullpen, there is really one thing that stands out, and that is that we haven't converted the saves that we needed to convert. What we really need to do is find somebody who can close the game. Maybe that's two or three guys in some combination. If we can fix that, I think the 'pen's got a chance to be pretty good."