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Familia, Mejia push their way into Mets' pitching picture

The SportsXchange

Heading into this season, the New York Mets boasted four pitching prospects whom most scouts ranked a cut above the other arms in their farm system. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were both former first-round draft picks, fast-tracked to the Majors. Harvey has already arrived, and Wheeler is not far behind.

Then there were Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, two international free agents with unclear futures. Both pitchers, the Mets knew, possessed enough talent to potentially front a big-league rotation. But given their repertoires and inconsistencies, both also seemed perhaps better suited for the bullpen.

A full year has given the Mets a bit more perspective on the two of them. Right now, Mejia is starting in the big leagues and provided five shutout innings in the Mets' 6-2 victory over the Pirates on Monday. Familia is relieving.

The Mets set it up that way for September largely because of what unfolded from April through August. Mejia and Familia both spent significant portions of their summers as starting pitchers, but Mejia thrived in that role at Triple-A Buffalo while Familia struggled, as his 4.73 ERA attests.

Mejia also saw time as a reliever and scuffled. But when Familia converted to relief work after the Mets called him up to the majors, he began impressing manager Terry Collins and his staff with his bullpen work.

Lately, Collins has referred more and more often to Familia as a potential future closer, given his dynamic fastball and his struggles as a starter. And Mejia is looking more and more like a starter, shaking off the rust from his first major league start in more than two years to silence the Pirates.

That can all change once the Mets report to camp again next spring, so Collins has been careful not to label either of them starting pitchers or relievers for the long run. But the situation might be taking on a bit more clarity than it did six months ago.
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