Jenrry Mejia thought he was past all the debates.
Back in spring training, the Mets righthander asked his agents to relay his desire to remain a starting pitcher, which he believes is easier on his arm than working as a reliever. The Mets initially were on the same page, with general manager Sandy Alderson citing Mejia's injury history as the reason he'd be a starter.
But the Mets are preparing for an about-face. With the bullpen desperately in need of reinforcement, Mets insiders told Newsday that Mejia has emerged as a prime candidate to transition again into a relief role.
"[Even] if I don't like it, I'm going to do it,'' said Mejia, who is scheduled to start Friday night against the Phillies. "I have to do it. That's my team and I want to be with my teammates.''
In his first four starts, Mejia went 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA. But he has allowed 14 runs in his last two outings, with a noticeable drop-off against the lineup for the third time in a game. Some within the organization still believe that as a max-effort pitcher with a nasty cutting action on his fastball, Mejia profiles best as a reliever.
Nevertheless, Mejia said the recent chatter of a potential change caught him off guard "because I threw two bad starts.''
Mejia, 24, blames bouncing between the rotation and bullpen for the arm trouble that has derailed his career. "I think that's why I got a couple of operations on my arm,'' he said. "I don't want to be like I was two years ago. I want to stay healthy.''
Mejia has had two elbow procedures, including Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2011 season. He believes the predictability of starting games makes it easier to prepare his body.
Said Mejia: "I'll be able to stay healthy if I start because I know when I'll pitch, every five days.''
Nevertheless, assistant general manger John Ricco said there is "always discussion'' regarding roles, confirming that the Mets could make a change.
Depending on the timing of the move, sources said Daisuke Matsuzaka could replace Mejia in the rotation. Pitching prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom also could be called up from Triple-A Las Vegas.
"If they need me in the bullpen,'' Mejia said, "I'm not going to fight them.''
For now, a move does not appear imminent.
"He's going to start on Friday,'' Ricco said, "and we'll see where we go from there.''Instead of re-evaluating Mejia start by start, team insiders said they will allow the situation to play itself out. Of course, Mejia's fate may hinge less on his own performance and more on whether the bullpen continues to struggle.