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Jenrry Mejia won't close door on all five of his pitches

Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia reacts after striking out

Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia reacts after striking out Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard to end a baseball game, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

As an admittedly reluctant relief pitcher, Jenrry Mejia has quickly learned that the best way to embrace his new job as Mets closer is to do it his way.

Closers typically use only two or three different pitches in an effort to attack opposing hitters with only their best stuff in their short window of work. But Mejia has eschewed tradition. He has insisted on using all five of his pitches, and the early results have been promising.

When Mejia struck out the side in order against the Phillies on Thursday night, he threw 15 pitches and still mixed them up -- seven cutters, four curveballs, two sliders, a sinker and a changeup.

"I want to throw them all,'' he said, "because I never know when I will need them.''

It's an unusual approach compared to most closers.

A starter's job requires him to throw several different pitches because he doesn't want hitters batting against him for the third or fourth time in a game knowing exactly what's coming.

But the closer enters the game expecting to face only three or four hitters, so there's no need for him to mix up his pitches as much.

A closer wants to go after hitters with his best pitch. That's why Mariano Rivera threw the same pitch 90 percent of the time.

"You only have so many pitches to throw so you've got to make those count," injured Mets closer Bobby Parnell said. "But he's got some plus pitches. It'll be tough for him to throw them all, but it's good to keep the hitters thinking about them."

These days you'll see closers primarily throw two different pitches (the Yankees' David Robertson and the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen) or three different pitches (the Giants' Sergio Romo and the Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon).

But Mejia said he is used to throwing five as a starting pitcher and doesn't want to change just because he's expected to throw only 15 pitches now as opposed to 100.

It's a sentiment that at least one other closer understands.

Arizona's Addison Reed said he recently dusted off a changeup that he hadn't thrown since last season because he felt he needed to give hitters something else to think about besides his fastball and slider. So he appreciates why Mejia wants to throw as many as five pitches.

"My thought process is, the more pitches you have, why not throw them?" Reed said.

There's also a sense of comfort for Mejia knowing he has five pitches to throw at any time.

None of his off-speed pitches are developed to the point that they can be considered a sure thing yet, so the pitch he uses to fool hitters might be a different one on a nightly basis.

"There are days when his curveball is his best off-speed pitch and there have definitely been some days when his change is," catcher Anthony Recker said. "I like his slider but I think it's the most inconsistent of them. But it also can be the most devastating.

"It all depends on the day. That's not a great answer, but it's the truth."

So Recker and Travis d'Arnaud rely on Mejia to determine in the bullpen which off-speed pitch is working best and relay that info to his catcher when he comes in.

So far it's working.

As a starter he walked 20 in 371/3 innings and frustrated the Mets with his tendency to not consistently attack hitters, raising his pitch count in the process.

But since he became the closer on May 15, Mejia has been a far more aggressive pitcher. The velocity on his cutter -- the pitch he throws the most -- has jumped nearly 2 mph, a product of not holding anything back.

Through Thursday night's performance, he had not allowed an earned run in nine innings, having walked only three and struck out 10.

He's been doing it by throwing all five of his pitches, and he doesn't plan to stop.

"Honestly, it's just an advantage to him," Recker said. "The biggest thing for him will be to throw them consistently, which is hard when you're not out there throwing 100 pitches. But if he can continue to do that, I think it will be huge for him."

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