Jenrry Mejia has repertoire issues in Mets' loss to Braves

Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia delivers to the plate Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia delivers to the plate during a game against the Atlanta Braves. (Sept. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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ATLANTA -- Jenrry Mejia lobbied the Mets for the chance to prove he could cut it as a starter in the major leagues. After a three-game audition that ended with Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Braves, the outcome was hardly conclusive.

The righthander produced mixed results, getting roughed up in his first starting assignment against the Brewers on Sept. 15 before hurling five shutout innings against the Pirates last Monday. Sunday's effort, in which he allowed four runs in five innings and threw 91 pitches, ranks somewhere in the middle.

"He was impressive enough to know that he possibly could be a starter," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Mejia, who turns 23 on Oct. 11, posted a 1-2 record and a 6.23 ERA in three starts since his September call-up. After allowing five runs in three innings in his first start against the Brewers, he lasted five innings in each of his next two starts, which he took as a sign of improvement.

"I'm pretty happy," said Mejia, who returned to the Mets after missing last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Collins was pleased with what he saw from Mejia Sunday. His two-seam fastball generated groundouts, a consistent quality in his three starts. He regained some of the natural cut on his fastball. But he also offered signs that he remains a work in progress, far from a sure bet to crack a starting rotation that looks set heading into 2013.

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Specifically, Mejia paid the price for falling behind in counts, a product of the shaky command that produced nine walks in 16 September innings. Mejia's mid-90s velocity gives him a solid foundation, but Collins said the three-game audition highlighted the righthander's need to refine a more reliable off-speed pitch.

Mejia struck out three and walked two against the Braves, who played before their third consecutive sellout crowd during Chipper Jones' final regular- season homestand. Braves starter Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA) set a major-league record, as the Braves won a game started by Medlen for the 23rd straight time dating to 2010. He allowed an unearned run in six innings.

David Ross bashed a three-run homer off Mejia in the second inning, pulling a fastball deep into the leftfield stands to put the Mets behind 3-0. Two outs after a pair of doubles put the Braves ahead 4-1 in the fifth, Mejia's audition came to a close.

"I think we have to wait until next spring to see where we are, what we need, what kind of depth we have in the rotation," Collins said. "But I can see Jenrry Mejia starting someplace."

Notes & quotes: Catcher Josh Thole survived a scare in the fourth inning when he was struck on his right ear by a foul ball into the dugout. Thole, who has a history of concussions, was cleared when tests came back negative. He was left with a small cut and a swollen ear . . . Pitching prospect Jeurys Familia, who makes his first major-league start in Monday night's series opener in Miami, will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Though he wants to work as a reliever, Collins said it's possible that he will start . . . Collins won't rule out using Lucas Duda in rightfield next season, even after the same experiment failed this year . . . While veterans wore NFL jerseys of choice, Mets rookies wore racy referee outfits on the team's charter to Miami. The uniforms featured miniskirts and tight-fitting striped jerseys.

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