Bad, but not quite that bad: Adalberto Mejia struggles in his first start of the year

With the Twins 4-0 for the first time since 1987, they sent southpaw Adalberto Mejia (my No. 10 prospect in the Twins’ system) to the mound on Saturday in a bid for win number five.

It didn’t end well.

Mejia threw 51 pitches in 1.2 innings against the White Sox, allowing three runs — two earned — on two hits and two walks while earning a loss in his first career decision.

Definitely not a great start on paper and while it was just one game, should owners be worried about Mejia?

Let’s breakdown his start:

First Inning

Mejia allowed one run and one hit during an 11 pitch first inning. The only hit came from Tyler Saladino, who reached out off the plate to rip a double over Miguel Sano’s head and down the left field line. Saladino advanced to third and then scored on back-to-back groundouts, and then Jose Abreu grounded out to short to end the bottom of the first.

Mejia was hitting his spots pretty well for most of this inning, he only had two pitches get away from him when he faced Abreu, otherwise he hit his marks and his pitch velocity was not an issue. There really isn’t too much more Mejia could have done better in this inning. Saladino just managed to extend the bat and make some solid contact on a pitch that was low and outside.

Second Inning

The wheels came off the bus here for Mejia, as he recorded only two outs while facing six batters. For this inning, I’m gonna break it down batter-by-batter.

  • Todd Frazier (Result: Walk) — It seemed like this at-bat rattled Mejia and caused the meltdown. Once again, his pitch location was pretty well spot on (there were two or three that appeared to miss the mark) and velocity was good, he just wasn’t able to fool the seven-year veteran who fouled off 10 pitches — including eight in a row — before drawing the walk.
  • Avisail Garcia (Result: RBI Triple) — Mejia fell behind 2-1 after he missed high on the first pitch and then outside on the third. The fourth pitch of this at bat proved costly, as it ended up leading to two more runs crossing the plate. The 2-1 pitch was a fastball low and away that according to pitch f/x WAS inside the corner and should have been a strike. However, on that pitch Frazier took off running and Twins catcher Jason Castro flubbed the relay of the ball from glove to hand, allowing Frazier to slide in safely. Lost in all this excitement was the fact the umpire called the pitch a ball, which was a huge call against Mejia because Garcia swung and missed at the next pitch for what should have been strike three, but was only strike two. Garcia fouled off the next pitch before launching a fastball high and deep to right-center field where the ball bounced off the end of Byron Buxton’s glove before he crashed into the fence. When the dust settled, Garcia was on third and it was now a 2-0 game.
  • Geovany Soto (Result: Pop out to second) — Castro came up with another costly fumble in this at bat, when on a pick-off-attempt-turned-run-down Sano made a late throw to the plate that Castro couldn’t come up with allowing Garcia to score from third. I’d say there’s equal blame to be placed on Castro and Sano on this play, but Mejia was still the one to suffer as now he seemed to be rattled and his command began to slip. The pitch after the failed run down, Mejia got Soto to hit a pop up to Brian Dozier that almost turned into another hit as Dozier had to fight the wind to make the catch.
  • Matt Davidson (Result: Pop out to first) — Mejia pound the low inside corner of the plate in this at bat, needing seven pitches to finally get Davidson to pop out to Joe Mauer in foul territory.
  • Jacob May (Result: Walk) — A four-pitch walk, only one of those came close to hitting the strike zone. It’s now a matter of waiting for Justin Haley to warm up.
  • Tyler Saladino (Result: Hit by Pitch) — Mejia once again gets Saladino in an 0-2 hole, but command issues show up again as Saladino first fouls off a pitch inside and off the plate, then watches a ball go by wide outside before getting hit on the wrist in the fifth pitch of the at bat. Paul Molitor comes out from the dugout and pulls Mejia after 1.2 innings and 51 pitches.

Look, there’s no sugar coating it — it was a bad start for Mejia. Am I concerned about his outlook for the season? No, not yet. First off, it’s his first start of the season, and nobody should ever be making any drastic moves based on the result of a single outing. I think that Mejia got shafted by a couple of missed plays on defense and his nerves just got the better of him today. For the most part he was showing good command of his pitches early on, hitting the spots where Castro set up behind the plate. My only two concerns to keep an eye on in his next start are pitch location when he is under pressure — he definitely started losing more control as the second inning went on — and his ability to miss bats. In the minors, he has never been a big strikeout guy. He broke 100 strikeouts for the first time last year between Double-A and Triple-A. That being said, he can’t have batters foul off as many pitches as they did today if he’s going to be successful.

In conclusion, it was a bad start but not quite as bad as it appears in the box score. It’s only one game, so don’t hit the panic button yet.

Featured image of Adalberto Mejia, courtesy Getty Images/Ed Zurga

Baseball fanatic. I love to write and photograph anything and everything related to America's Favorite Pasttime. Follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrennell for baseball news with other sports-related tweets mixed in.

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