Mets Envision Big Things For Hard-Throwing Mejia





PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Mets manager Jerry Manuel attended the first week of the Arizona Fall League, trying to gauge if righthander Jenrry Mejia is ready to contribute at the big league level in 2010.

Manuel left that viewing believing Mejia needed to dramatically improve his control before meriting serious consideration for an Opening Day bullpen role.

Then Mejia arrived at camp, started firing strikes and Manuel started comparing the cutting action on Mejia's fastball to Mariano Rivera's movement. Mejia opened Grapefruit League play by tossing 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his first two outings, while surrendering only two hits and no walks.

General manager Omar Minaya indicated the plan early in camp was for the 20-year-old righthander to open the season in Double-A Binghamton's rotation, but Manuel may lobby otherwise.

"Mejia's No. 76. Frankie's No. 75," Manuel said, referring to Francisco Rodriguez's jersey number. "They might follow each other down there. That's what I'm trying to tell you. My goodness.

"I like him a lot. For me, when you are that dominant, you hope as you progress that you continue to see that consistency. What he has to do is prove he can throw consistent strikes. If he can do that, you've got somebody fighting for him."

Mejia's control last year wavered upon a promotion to Binghamton, where he walked 23 in 44 innings—but on the season, he fanned 91 in 95 innings, allowing just two home runs.

In the AFL, he walked 13 batters in 14 1⁄3 innings and had a 12.56 ERA. He doesn't grip his signature pitch like a cutter. Instead, he holds it like a four-seam fastball and relies on the natural movement.

"He came right at everybody. He had a really good cut fastball. It was effective," said Marlins outfielder Cameron Maybin, one of Mejia's spring strikeout victims. "As far as I went, everything was away from me, so it was tough."

Said Marlins catcher Brett Hayes, another strikeout victim: "He's got a lot of movement on his pitches. He was throwing it, and no one could hit it, so it looked good from where I was sitting."

METAMORPHOSES

• The Mets intend to play Fernando Martinez primarily in right field at Triple-A Buffalo this season.

• The Mets signed lefthander Mike O'Connor to a minor league deal. He pitched for the Triple-A affiliates of the Nationals, Padres and Royals last season, going a combined 3-10, 5.56 with 64 strikeouts and 25 walks in 91 innings.