"Righthanded pitcher Jenrry Mejia was examined today by Mets Medical Director Dr. David Altchek and was found to have a complete MCL tear of the right elbow. Mejia underwent an MRI at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Surgical treatment has been recommended, but Mejia is expected to seek a second opinion."
This will set Mejia back about a year. The hope around here was that he would improve his command in Buffalo this year, and earn a chance in the rotation at year's end to prove he was ready to be a key rotation piece in 2012. Obviously, that's off the table.
Instead, he's looking, most likely, at surgery, then rehab with the hope that he'll be at full-strength in 12 months, or this time next year. Even so, some TJ survivors take longer both to regain full strength or their feel. So, given that he was still developing, I think this pushes his timetable back a little bit more, so maybe he'll make a 2012 cameo, but 2013 seems like a safer bet.
Mike Diaz noticed that Mejia seemed to be experiencing some discomfort in his arm in his second-to-last start, on April 24th versus Lehigh Valley. According to an email from Mike to me, "If you watch the video, Raul Chavez comes out to talk to Mejia and looks concerned, but obviously Mejia told him he was ok." Mejia, then looked down at his elbow, seen here at right.
By his final start against Rochester, the opposing broadcasters noticed something wasn't right with the Bisons right-hander. Courtesy of Mike, this is a quote from the fourth and final inning of Mejia's start against Rochester:
"We have noticed that Mejia's velocity.. He has kind of taken something off a bit, in an attempt to throw more strikes. He's not throwing as much in the 90s, he's been more in the upper 80s…"
The injury also explains why he threw under 50% strikes in that final start after throwing 60% strikes in his first four.
I am not in any way suggested that the Mets mishandled Mejia in any way this year. Simply, when a pitcher's arm breaks down, there are a number of signs along the way. As the HSS website points out, "MCL tears are often the result of a gradual process of attenuation; it may not be immediately apparent that the ligament is torn."
I was also asked on Twitter whether Mejia's time in the bullpen last year could have had anything to do with his current injury. I don't see it. Pitching is an inherently unnatural act. There are only so many times most bodies can do it before a bone, ligament or muscle in the shoulder, elbow or wrist gives way. My argument is that Mejia's MCL would have torn whether he was starting or relieving in 2010.
So that's a big bummer for the Mets and Mejia. The good news is that in 2011, the vast majority of pitchers come back at full strength from Tommy John elbow procedures. Also, at this time next year, Mejia will be just 22 years old.
TINSTAAPP - There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.