Jenrry Mejia faces demotion to bullpen, but he's scared of hurting his arm again

Ruben Tejada, center, reacts with teammates, including catcher
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Ruben Tejada, center, reacts with teammates, including catcher Travis d'Arnaud (15) and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, after he singled to drive in the winning run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the 11th inning at Citi Field on May 11, 2014.(Credit: Ray Stubblebine)

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Jenrry Mejia could be headed to the Mets' bullpen, whether he likes it or not.

Mets manager Terry Collins said no decision has been made on Mejia's next scheduled start, but said if they decided to make him a reliever, "he's got to accept it."

Mejia, however, sounds as if he's got a ways to go before coming to grips with such a move.

The righthander said before Saturday night's game that he is worried how his twice surgically repaired elbow will respond to pitching on short notice night after night.

"I told him I don't know if I can pitch for the bullpen because I've had two operations," Mejia said.

Asked whether he has specific limitations that would keep him from pitching out of the bullpen, he said: "I worry about my arm. I want to have a long career. I don't want to get hurt again."

Collins met with pitching coach Dan Warthen Saturday to discuss what to do with Mejia, who has frustrated them with high pitch counts in recent starts.

Collins said they will bring general manager Sandy Alderson into the conversation in the next day or two, along with a few other key decision-makers, before deciding what to do.

"Jenrry's stuff plays, it's good enough," Collins said. "What you see is, where you get a little concerned, is with the excessive pitches he uses to sometimes get outs. You look up [Friday] night and after three innings, he had 63 pitches. That's a lot in three innings."

So perhaps Mejia is better suited in short bursts where he can expend his arsenal for an inning or two, not having to worry about saving something for the later innings and risking command in the process. At least that's the Mets' thinking as they consider the move.

"Certainly we know he can do it," Collins said, "and he knows he can do it."

But he doesn't want to do it.

Asked if he would prefer to go to Triple-A Las Vegas to join its rotation instead of pitching out of the Mets' bullpen, Mejia said: "I don't know right now. That's a decision I have to make."

Mejia has struggled since he won three of his first four starts and posted a 1.99 ERA in 222/3 innings in that span. In his three starts since, he's allowed 16 runs, 23 hits and walked six in just 142/3 innings.

Mejia's start Friday night against the Phillies was seen as perhaps his last chance to keep hold of his rotation spot, and he didn't help matters by failing to make it through five innings.

He gave up only two runs, but also six hits, three walks and needed 101 pitches before being lifted with two outs in the fifth.

Clearly, Collins is tired of needing several relievers for every Mejia start just to get through nine innings, let alone 11 innings like Friday night.

"When you're looking at a guy, gosh we're going to [need] five innings out of him, [or else] you end up expending your bullpen a little bit," Collins said. "You've got to be careful."

Mejia made the Mets' Opening Day roster as a reliever in 2010 but wasn't used regularly and was sent to the minors as a starter, only to hurt his elbow for the first time. That memory is apparently a big reason why he doesn't want to return there.

"When it comes to 2010 when he made this team, he was all about going to the bullpen," Collins said. "If that's our decision, that it's, 'hey, look, we want to take a look at how it's going to work in the bullpen,' then he's going to have to pitch out of the bullpen."

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