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Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia is a closer with a starter's repertoire

The erstwhile starter reluctantly took on a role in the bullpen and has become an unorthodox yet remarkably effective closer.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Jenrry Mejia is employing an atypical arsenal out of the bullpen to give the New York Mets some unaccustomed late-inning productivity.

In his relatively new relief role, the former starter has shined with a 1.97 ERA and 34 strikeouts through 32 innings, most recently collecting his 15th save in a 2–0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday afternoon.

It’s far from uncommon for a former starter to find new life as a reliever, where pitchers can exert maximum effort with only one inning to worry about. During such a transition, many hurlers typically lean more heavily on a select one or two pitch specialties. Mejia, on the other hand, has kept five pitches at his disposal.

The Star-Ledger’s Mike Vorkunov profiled Mejia’s unorthodox process in his new closing gig, noting that the 24-year-old still utilizes his entire repertoire.

With Mejia, there was no thought in trying to lop off a pitch. He had all of those pitches as a starter, he said, so why not use them. He is comfortable throwing any of them in tight situations and has with regularity.

Originally hesitant, and sometimes resistant, to becoming a reliever, he maintained some semblance of his profile as a starter. And as he has taken to the role with ease and success, the Mets have not tried to change him.

Mariano Rivera was notorious for throwing his remarkable cutter on repeat and dared everyone to do something about it. Mejia also wields a cutter, but it’s not nearly as dominant as Rivera’s.

According to Brooks Baseball, Mejia has thrown his cutter 56.8 percent of the time this season. Although his primary weapon in terms of frequency, opponents have hit .264 against it. That’s worst batting average against of any of his pitches, not including the .316 opposing clip off curveballs, which is likely misleading due to a .546 BABIP.

Mejia has recently cut down on the cutter, throwing it 45.4 percent of the time in July. During April, he used it on 64.5 percent of pitches while working in the rotation. In its place he’s turning to more sliders and changeups, which has netted opposing batting averages of .222 and .219, respectively.

He’ll rarely dial up a high–90s heater like some other dominant relief aces, but Mejia’s expansive repertoire has helped fortify a shaky bullpen all the same.