Jenrry Mejia elbow injury on Opening Day leaves bullpen void for Mets

WASHINGTON -- The New York Mets suddenly need a closer.

Jenrry Mejia experienced stiffness in the back of his right elbow while warming in the bullpen for a potential save on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals and never entered. Mejia will be examined by team doctor David Altchek and undergo an MRI on Tuesday in New York.

Bullpen coach Ricky Bones, who was Mejia's pitching coach at Triple-A Buffalo in 2011 when Mejia suffered a complete tear in the MCL in his right elbow, said Mejia had a similarly painful expression Monday.

That time Mejia required Tommy John surgery. Bones said he had no idea if the severity this time matches four years ago.

"You can read by being around the guys when something is kind of bothering him," Bones said. "I asked him. He told me he was feeling something that wasn't right."

Manager Terry Collins said Mejia had pain in the back of the elbow while bending it in either direction. There had been no prior warning of recent elbow issues with Mejia, according to the manager.

"He couldn't get it loose," Collins said. "With what we've seen right now, and with what he's had in the past, we had to shut him down."

General manager Sandy Alderson outlined contingencies after the Mets' 3-1 win at Nationals Park.

Alderson said the Mets would stay with eight relievers assuming Mejia goes on the DL, meaning a reliever would be summoned from Triple-A Las Vegas. Alderson acknowledged right-hander Zack Thornton might get that call.

Collins said Jeurys Familia should handle the ninth inning in Mejia's absence, with Carlos Torres sliding into an eighth-inning role. The Mets hoped to ease prospect Rafael Montero into bullpen work, but Collins acknowledged Montero now may need to handle the seventh inning.

"Like I always say, I'll be ready to help the team -- it doesn't matter what inning, what situation," said Familia, who tossed a perfect eighth Monday.

Late-inning relievers Vic Black and Bobby Parnell both opened the season with backdated DL stints, and Alderson said neither would return Sunday when initially eligible.

Black, working back from shoulder weakness, has yet to pitch in games on back-to-back days in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets describe that as a prerequisite to returning.

Parnell is in the final stages of his return from Tommy John surgery, but Alderson said the Mets would not "expedite" the former closer's return, which is planned for later this month.

It marks the second straight year the Mets' closer went down on Opening Day. Parnell suffered a blown save last season at Citi Field against the Nationals. He then was diagnosed with a tear of the MCL in his right elbow, which required the ligament-replacement surgery.

Mejia, usually affable and outgoing, declined to speak with media Monday, further signaling the injury's severity.

It is the latest in a rash of elbow injuries for Mets pitchers. Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin underwent Tommy John surgery last month.

"We're wearing out that MRI machine -- and paying for it," Alderson joked.

Buddy Carlyle, a 37-year-old journeyman who only made the team when Alderson decided to carry eight relievers, ended up notching his first career major league save Monday. Carlyle became the fourth pitcher in major league history to record his first save at least 15 years after his major league debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He joined Frank Tanana, Livan Hernandez and Jamey Wright.

"It just shows, you never know what's going to happen -- and keep working," Carlyle said. "In 2009 I found out I was a Type 1 diabetic and didn't know what was going to happen. That's kind of the reason I still play, just for that reason -- to show kids that they can do whatever they want with that disease. It means a lot to come back.

"You just never know what's going to happen on Opening Day. To get my first save, it's crazy."