He threw hard. He threw strikes. So fluid was Jenrry Mejia in his first Triple-A start in a year it seemed he could have thrown forever.
Mejia's comeback from major elbow surgery surged forward Wednesday night as he fired six solid and sometimes dominant innings in the Buffalo Bisons' 3-2 victory over the Columbus Clippers before 4,831 at Coca-Cola Field. He allowed just two hits (a home run and a triple) walked one and struck out two. Forty-five of his 68 pitches went for strikes and he topped out at 94 mph on the scoreboard-posted speed readings.
Mejia, on a 75-pitch limit, was long gone by the time the Bisons won it in the 10th. Josh Satin opened the inning with a double, Buffalo's first hit since the fourth. He advanced to third on a ground out and scored without a play on a wild pitch by Hector Ambriz. The Bisons can complete a sweep of the four-game series with a victory this morning.
Mejia fired accurately and with velocity right from the outset. His first fastball was posted at 91 mph and he quickly climbed the ladder, reaching back for 94 mph gas in striking out the Clippers' lead-off hitter, Ezequiel Carrera. Mejia mixed a 79 mph curve into that at-bat and needed just four more pitches to finish off the inning.
Inconsistency with some off-speed stuff caught up with Mejia in the second inning. He had Clippers' clean-up hitter' Matt LaPorta' flailing at a curveball to go ahead 1-2 in the count. But LaPorta hung tough, fouled off a 93 mph heater, and then jumped all over a hanging 83 mph off-speed pitch, drilling it over the wall in left. LaPorta is second in the IL with 14 homers.
"Sometimes you're going to hang them," Mejia said, adding that throwing offspeed pitches for strikes was the objective.
"I have to work on my secondary pitch," Mejia said. "Now I feel like I can throw it for strikes. I feel pretty good about it."
"I thought he was outstanding," said Herd manager Wally Backman. "He made one bad pitch with that one breaking ball where he hung it, but other than that everything was pretty sharp."
The Bisons had taken a 2-1 lead on a two-run homer by Corey Wimberly, his first. The two-out shot to left came after Brad Emaus led off with a double, Buffalo's first hit off Columbus starter David Huff.
The lead didn't last through the fourth. Jason Donald tripled and came home on a Cord Phelps sacrifice fly to tie it.
Mejia retired nine straight after the triple by Donald, and zipped through his final inning, the sixth, on a scant seven pitches. Relievers Josh Edgin and Elvin Ramirez teamed to throw four perfect innings, striking out five, in the combined two-hitter. Ramirez still has not allowed a run in 11 Buffalo appearances.
The game brought Mejia full circle. He experienced discomfort in his right elbow while making his fourth start of the season for the Bisons at Rochester on April 29, 2011 and departed after four innings. The parent club flew him to New York for further examination and team doctors diagnosed a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. The ligament was replaced (Tommy John surgery) on May 16 of last year, and Mejia braced for what's typically a year to recover. He came in slightly ahead of schedule.
Mejia faced live batters for the first time on May 9, throwing five innings and allowing two runs for St. Lucie of the Class A Florida State League. A six-inning start later he was advanced to Binghamton, where he threw eight innings and allowed five runs over two games.
Meanwhile, Herd infielder Jordany Valdespin was called up by the Mets before the game. Outfielder Raul Reyes has been promoted from Binghamton to Buffalo.