As Jenrry Mejia ran laps around the Citi Field warning track more than four hours before last night's game against the Pirates, he looked nothing like a pitcher who had just been shut down because of an injury.
The Mets and their top prospect were both relieved to learn Thursday that the shoulder injury he suffered during Wednesday night's game was not serious enough to require surgery.
The team announced that the MRI on Mejia's shoulder after the game revealed "a rhomboid strain of the right shoulder blade."
Although Mejia said he doesn't have a timetable for when he can begin throwing again, the 20-year-old, hard-throwing righthander said his plans to pitch in winter ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason haven't changed because of this latest injury.
With teammate Angel Pagan acting as an interpreter, Mejia said that he started to feel the pain in the back of his shoulder during the second inning Wednesday night. It became worse on the 1-and-0 pitch in the dirt to Andrew McCutchen in the third inning.
"It wasn't a real, real bad pain," Pagan said, echoing Mejia's words, "but he just wanted to be careful so he doesn't make it worse than what it was . . . He feels better to know that it's nothing that requires surgery or anything like that. He's not happy about it but more calm."
Mejia said this injury is in a different area than the posterior cuff strain that sidelined him for a month earlier this season, and he indicated that that injury suffered while he was pitching for Double-A Binghamton was more worrisome than this one.
"He said it's just a matter of giving it the proper rest so he can get fully healed and go back to pitching, but it's nothing that worried him too much, not like the first one," Pagan said.
Mejia's second shoulder injury cuts short an awkward rookie season that began as a reliever, a role he described as "weird" because it was new to him. He added that he does not think bouncing from reliever to the rotation played a role in his injuries. "He works really hard to stay healthy," Pagan said. "But whenever an injury is going to happen, you have no control over it."
But as he enters the offseason, Mejia made it clear he has his sights set on being a starter for the Mets next year. "He said he's going to work really hard in the winter so he can earn a spot in the rotation," Pagan said. "He feels he can be a starter in the major leagues."
While Mejia's shoulder problems this season are far from comforting for team officials, it was easy for the Mets to feel upbeat about the test results, especially with the news still fresh that ace Johan Santana will likely start next season on the disabled list still rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
As for the 15 games remaining this season, the Mets will not need to fill Mejia's spot in the rotation until Sept. 28 because of the way their off days fall.
But when they do need another starter, manager Jerry Manuel mentioned Oliver Perez along with Raul Valdes and Pat Misch as possibilities to make that start. Perez, in the second year of a three-year, $36-million contract, has pitched in only two games since Aug. 2.
Pelfrey wins 15th. Mike Pelfrey (15-9) allowed two runs in seven innings as the Mets beat the Pirates, 6-2, to sweep the four-game series. Angel Pagan had three hits and two RBIs and Lucas Duda drove in two runs with a double in the fourth.
There was an estimated crowd of less than 5,000 at Citi Field thanks in part to the tornado-like storm that suspended service on the LIRR and 7 train. The Mets said all tickets to last night's game can be redeemed against Milwaukee Sept. 27-30.