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In first start in two years, Jenrry Mejia fails to impress

Jenrry Mejia delivers a pitch during the first

Jenrry Mejia delivers a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. (Sept. 15, 2012) Credit: AP

MILWAUKEE -- Jenrry Mejia wants to convince the Mets that he should be a starting pitcher. But in his first start in exactly two years, the righthander showed why he may yet land in the bullpen.

In a 9-6 loss to the Brewers Saturday night, the former top pitching prospect couldn't get an out in the fourth inning. He allowed five runs and walked five in three-plus innings. Of the 68 pitches he threw, only 32 were strikes, underscoring a lack of command that doomed his first start since Sept. 15, 2010.

Said Mejia: "Today was not my day.''

Mets manager Terry Collins recalled when Mejia was considered "the Matt Harvey in the organization'' back in 2010, when he debuted with mammoth expectations. In Mejia's return, a similar anticipation was evident in the lead-up to his first start since undergoing elbow surgery in 2011. But by the fourth inning, Collins had seen enough.

Through his first 50 pitches, Mejia threw only 25 strikes, but despite his early wildness, he limited the damage to one run in his first three innings. But in the fourth, the Brewers began punishing Mejia for missing the strike zone.

Mejia walked leadoff man Nyjer Morgan and gave up a bunt single to Jean Segura to set up Logan Shafer's two-run triple. When Mejia walked Norichika Aoki, Collins left the dugout and quickly signaled for Jeremy Hefner. The audition was over. Hefner allowed a run to score on a wild pitch and gave up a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks.

"His fastball command just wasn't there tonight,'' catcher Kelly Shoppach said.

It's unlikely that Mejia's performances during his late-season starts will be enough for the team to make a decision on his role going forward. Collins said he'd be willing to wait until spring training before making any lasting determinations.

But Mejia failed to capitalize on his first starting opportunity. Entering the game, Collins said he was eager to see just how much Mejia had matured. He had last seen him as a two-pitch pitcher, reliant on his fastball and curveball to get hitters out.

"I thought his stuff was good,'' Collins said. "His breaking ball has improved since the last time I saw him. He still has to find something that gets them off the fastball a little bit.''

Indeed, Mejia offered some encouraging signs. His fastball topped out at 96 mph, a reminder of his electric arm. His two-seamer helped generate six groundouts compared with one flyout, a sign of the natural movement on his pitches. His curveball produced a double-play grounder by Jonathan Lucroy, a timely outcome that limited the Brewers to one run in the first.

But the highlights ended there. Ryan Braun laced an RBI double in the first inning, clobbering a hanging curveball after seeing a 95-mph fastball. The quality of the contact made it clear that Braun wasn't fooled.

Though Mejia displayed the raw power that once made him a highly regarded prospect, he showed none of the sophistication required for his stuff to translate into outs. Even with a mid-90s fastball, he failed to record a strikeout.

After the game, Collins said he never saw the signature cut on Mejia's fastballs, which came in straight. As a result, he didn't record a single swinging strike.

But the biggest culprit was his lack of command.

Said Mejia: "I tried to throw strikes, but I threw balls.''

Ike Davis hit his 27th homer, a two-run shot in the ninth. Davis and Daniel Murphy had three hits each for the Mets, who were outhit 12-10.

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