That's where the Mets will play the second of a three-game series against the Cubs on Saturday, and it's where Mejia -- New York's No. 1-rated prospect heading into the season, according to Baseball America -- will make his long-awaited big league debut as a starting pitcher.
Coming up through the system, Mejia had been compared in some circles to a young Dwight Gooden. Now, fans finally get a chance to see just how accurate that assessment was.
"I was in the other camp believing that he'd be better for us as a reliever for most of the year," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said, "but I'm definitely excited to see him as a starter."
It was Manuel's idea to have Mejia start the season off as a reliever, a role that saw the 20-year-old right-hander post a 3.25 ERA in 27 2/3 innings. Mejia was then sent to the Minor Leagues so he could expand his repertoire -- more specifically, by getting a better grasp of a curveball and changeup -- and begin conditioning his arm for the workload of a starting pitcher.
In nine Minor League starts, Mejia went 2-0 with a 1.28 ERA, fanning 45, walking 16 and hurling one complete-game shutout in 42 1/3 innings. In his first start for Triple-A Buffalo and his last start in the Minors, the native Dominican hurled eight innings of one-run ball, giving up five hits and a walk while striking out nine.
"Compared to last year, he's come a long, long way," said Mike Nickeas, the Mets catcher who caught Mejia in Double-A and Triple-A and was called up on Thursday to start as his batterymate Saturday. "I think his off-speed stuff for strikes has been tremendous this year, and his last four or five outings have been phenomenal. His fastball is where it has been, only it's more consistent to both sides of the plate. He's done a terrific job."
The Mets need a spark after dropping four of the first five games of a current 10-game road trip, the last of which was a 7-6 loss to the Cubs -- 7-3 under interim manager Mike Quade -- on Friday.
Manuel said he doesn't know how long he'll let Mejia go on Saturday, but expressed caution about Wrigley Field, which could be tough on pitchers.
"The starter has to wait, especially early," he said. "The starter has got to find his way. In September, you can kind of mix and match if you have the bodies."
Mets: Team struggling to get them in
After going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Friday, the Mets are now batting .173 in that department in their past 24 games. Heading into a three-game series in Chicago, New York ranked 30th in the Majors in batting average in two crucial spots: with the bases loaded, and with two outs and runners in scoring position. Their batting average with runners in scoring position in general ranked 24th.
Since the All-Star break, the Mets are batting .228 and hold an 18-29 record.
Cubs: Zambrano to start Saturday after rotation shuffle
Since Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny could miss up to two starts because of a small incomplete hairline fracture underneath the fingernail of his left pinkie -- the result of a comebacker Wednesday -- the Cubs tweaked their rotation moving forward.
Carlos Zambrano will start Saturday, with Ryan Dempster going Sunday in the finale against the Mets. After that, Carlos Silva, who made his second rehab start on Wednesday, could go Monday, with rookie Casey Coleman going Tuesday.
Since rejoining the Cubs' rotation, Zambrano is 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in five starts. With five strikeouts on Saturday, the 29-year-old right-hander would jump Kerry Wood for third on the club's all-time strikeout list.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry met this past week with managerial candidate Ryne Sandberg but said Friday there is no front-runner for the job. ... Mets center fielder Angel Pagan returned to the starting lineup Friday, his first start since Monday after battling tendinitis in his right wrist, and finished 3-for-5. ... The team didn't learn much about the nature of Johan Santana's early exit on Friday, since he wasn't scheduled for any activity anyway, and is taking a wait-and-see approach as to whether he will take his next turn in the rotation with a strained pectoral. ... Geovany Soto (fluid and swelling in right knee) and Marlon Byrd (soreness in right leg) returned to the Cubs' lineup in the series opener. ... The Cubs have recalled catcher Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa.
Sat, 9/4 1:05 PM ET
Experience matters: Big Z trumps Mejia
Coming into the game, all the talk was about Jenrry Mejia's starting debut. Well, Carlos Zambrano, now third on the Cubs' all-time K's list, turned that into an afterthought with his fourth win since rejoining the rotation.
|Castillo, L, 2B||2||2||0||0||2||0||1||.236|
|Wright, D, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||4||.293|
|Davis, I, 1B||4||1||2||1||0||1||2||.251|
|Tejada, R, SS||2||0||1||0||0||1||0||.185|
|b-Carter, C, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.256|
|Hernandez, L, SS||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.308|
|Castro, S, SS||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.321|
|Ramirez, Ar, 3B||5||1||2||1||0||1||4||.241|
|a-Baker, Je, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.249|
2B: Beltran (9, Cashner).
HR: Davis, I (16, 7th inning off Zambrano, 0 on, 1 out).
TB: Beltran 4; Davis, I 5; Tejada, R.
RBI: Davis, I (58), Beltran (16).
2-out RBI: Beltran.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Davis, I; Pagan; Wright, D.
GIDP: Castillo, L; Nickeas.
Team RISP: 0-for-5.
Team LOB: 5.
SB: Beltran (2, 2nd base off Zambrano/Soto), Tejada, R (2, 2nd base off Zambrano/Soto), Castillo, L (8, home off Zambrano/Soto).
2B: Soto (18, Mejia), Ramirez, Ar (17, Mejia), Byrd (34, Mejia), Castro, S (29, Misch).
HR: Ramirez, Ar (21, 7th inning off Dessens, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Fukudome; Castro, S 3; Byrd 3; Ramirez, Ar 6; Nady; Colvin; Soto 2; DeWitt; Zambrano.
RBI: Soto (48), Nady (29), Byrd (58), Ramirez, Ar (70).
2-out RBI: Soto.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Fukudome 3; Colvin; DeWitt; Byrd; Nady 2.
SAC: Castro, S.
Team RISP: 3-for-13.
Team LOB: 12.
SB: Castro, S (8, 2nd base off Mejia/Nickeas).
PB: Soto (2).
DP: 2 (DeWitt-Castro, S-Nady, Castro, S-DeWitt-Nady).
WP: Mejia 2.
IBB: DeWitt (by Mejia), Byrd (by Parnell).
HBP: Pagan (by Zambrano).
Pitches-strikes: Mejia 96-64, Misch 11-5, Dessens 24-14, Feliciano 9-5, Parnell 19-10, Zambrano 102-63, Cashner 16-8, Marmol 17-13.
Groundouts-flyouts: Mejia 8-5, Misch 1-0, Dessens 0-1, Feliciano 0-0, Parnell 1-0, Zambrano 2-6, Cashner 0-2, Marmol 0-0.
Batters faced: Mejia 26, Misch 3, Dessens 5, Feliciano 3, Parnell 4, Zambrano 26, Cashner 5, Marmol 4.
Inherited runners-scored: Dessens 1-0, Feliciano 1-0, Parnell 2-0.
Umpires: HP: Ted Barrett. 1B: Tony Randazzo. 2B: Paul Nauert. 3B: Brian Gorman.
Weather: 61 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 15 mph, L to R.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media