WASHINGTON -- Jenrry Mejia’s transition to closer began with a scoreless ninth inning Saturday, for his first professional save since 2007 in the Dominican Summer League.
Next up: working back-to-back days, although Mejia isn’t sure he is quite ready yet.
New York Mets
Mejia, a starter for the past several seasons, has not pitched back-to-back days at any level since he worked in the major-league bullpen June 5-6, 2010.
He was reassigned to the bullpen earlier this week, with Rafael Montero stepping into the rotation. Mejia has now made three relief appearances since the transition.
“I don’t know yet,” Mejia hesitantly said about working back-to-back days. “Let’s see how I feel tomorrow, because I just have three days in the bullpen, and I have like three years that I didn’t pitch like that. Three years ago I was injured, hurt a lot. I don’t know right now.
“Three days in the bullpen, I think we’ve got to take a little bit longer.”
Terry Collins said Bartolo Colon likely was capable of pitching a complete game Saturday, since he had efficiently logged 105 pitches through eight innings. The 40-year-old right-hander will get an extra day of rest before his next start, too. But Collins saw a three-run lead against the Washington Nationals as a perfect opportunity to introduce Mejia to the closing role.
Mejia allowed a leadoff single to Jayson Werth, then retired three straight batters to polish off the 5-2 win.
“He could have gone out. He was fine,” Collins said about using Colon in the ninth. “I just told [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen], ‘There can’t be a better scenario.’ We’ve got a three-run lead. It’s a save situation. It’s the ninth inning. We’ve got to find out. And we’ve got to see how he’s going to handle it.”
Mejia said he was not more at ease because it was a three-run lead. A save chance is a save chance. And the ninth inning is the ninth inning.
He reminded reporters that Nats closer Rafael Soriano entered with a three-run lead Friday and nearly coughed it up. Only Werth’s catch atop the right-field wall on a shot by Daniel Murphy avoided a potential game-tying three-run homer and blown save.
“You saw Soriano yesterday. He came the same like me today, and we almost won. We almost got it,” Mejia said. “The ninth inning is the ninth inning.”
Mejia said it’s not the ninth inning he relishes if he is working in relief, but the predictability of knowing when he is going to work.
“I feel comfortable when I know I’m going to pitch,” Mejia candidly said.
As for post-save antics, there was no moon walk off the mound, which he had done in the Bronx after a successful eighth inning in his initial relief appearance Monday. Nor were there any other histrionics Saturday.
“Not today,” Mejia said.