PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia developed a close bond during their time with the Mets. Circumstances have left them inextricably linked — for better or worse.
Had Mejia not tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs last April, he likely wouldn’t have relinquished his role as the Mets’ closer, a job in which Familia has since flourished.
Now, months later, their paths have diverged. As Mejia became the first player banned for life, Familia enjoyed the trappings that comes with thriving as an elite big-league closer. He recently spent time recording his own introduction song with one of his favorite musicians, Zacarías Ferreíra.
As for Mejia, Familia still considers him a friend, though the two have not spoken since the third suspension was announced last Friday. Familia said he wants to give Mejia space in the aftermath of what is likely a career-ending violation.
“Everybody knows what happened,” Familia said Wednesday. “It’s tough for me because he’s my friend and he’s still my friend. I don’t know what he thinks. But everybody knows, when you do something wrong, you’ve got to pay for it and that’s all.”
In recent springs, Familia and Mejia often arrived at the team’s complex well before the others. They could be spotted running side by side on the warning track at Tradition Field.
A year ago, it was Mejia who was to enter the season as the closer, until his suspension gave the job to Familia. Last year, the 26-year-old righty saved 43 games in 48 opportunities and posted a 1.85 ERA.
Although Familia blew three saves in the World Series, those results were also a reflection of the poor defense played behind him.
Nevertheless, Familia said he hasn’t changed his approach as he enters camp as the team’s established closer for the first time.
Even without Mejia, who wasn’t eligible to return until July, the Mets bring a formidable bullpen to camp.
Lefty specialist Jerry Blevins is healthy after missing almost all of last year with arm injuries. Addison Reed takes over as the primary righthanded setup man after his second-half surge.
The Mets added another setup option in lefty Antonio Bastardo, one of several veteran players who have mentored Familia in the past. The two got to know each other while playing winter baseball.
And then there’s Familia, who is hoping to build off a breakout season in which he established himself as an elite closer.
“Right now at this time, I think everyone is just trying to go back and win the World Series,” he said.