For the second straight year, an injury struck the back end of the Mets' bullpen on Opening Day. This time it was right-handed closer Jenrry Mejia, who felt stiffness in his right elbow while warming up for a save attempt during Monday's 3-1 win over the Nationals.
As of early Monday evening, the Mets had not decided how to proceed with Mejia, whose long history of arm injuries includes Tommy John surgery in 2011 and an operation to remove bone chips from his elbow in '13. Mejia declined to comment, while general manager Sandy Alderson said he was "somewhat concerned."
"He couldn't get it loose," manager Terry Collins said of Mejia's arm, noting that the team had no inkling of an injury until Monday. "He's had elbow issues in the past. We had to shut him down."
Mejia's issue comes one year after Bobby Parnell struggled to loosen on Opening Day, blowing a save and learning the next day that he had a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Though the Mets have no initial reason to assume Mejia's injury is as serious, he is likely to undergo an MRI exam on Tuesday.
With Mejia sidelined, the Mets asked lefty specialist Jerry Blevins to retire the first batter of the ninth, Bryce Harper, before turning to Buddy Carlyle for two outs. Had the Mets known earlier that Mejia would be unable to pitch, they would have given the ninth inning to setup man Jeurys Familia. But Familia was already out of the game, forcing the Mets to ask the 37-year-old Carlyle to record his first career save.
"That's why we're down there, to be prepared," Carlyle said. "I know [Collins] has confidence in all of us down there to get outs."
Should Mejia land on the disabled list, the Mets will almost certainly use Familia at closer, at least until Parnell returns from his own DL stint in mid- to late-April. Black, who is currently rehabbing from a bout of shoulder tendinitis, is unlikely to be ready when he is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, so the Mets would instead add a prospect such as Zack Thornton or Erik Goeddel, who had been assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Everyone else already in the bullpen, including Carlos Torres and Rafael Montero, would take on more prominent roles.
"Whatever situation they put me, I'll just try and do my job," Familia said. "It doesn't matter what inning."