With the state of the Boston Red Sox bullpen, they could use a reliever who once registered 28 major league saves in one season, with 98 strikeouts in 93 innings.

But that glorious season was five years ago, and Jenrry Mejia must prove himself – in many ways – as he works his way through the Red Sox minor league system. Mejia arrived in Portland Thursday – 45 minutes before game time – and pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

“When I got here, they had already practiced, but I was ready for the game,” Mejia said. “I was ready to pitch.”

Mejia, 29, said he was ready several times in a brief interview in the Sea Dogs’ clubhouse. He has a career to rescue and a reputation to repair.

After that 2014 season, when he was the New York Mets’ closer, Mejia pitched only seven more games for the Mets. From April 2015 to February 2016, Mejia tested positive three times for the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s). Suspensions followed the first two failed tests. A third positive test in 12 months meant an automatic “lifetime” ban from baseball.

Major League rules allow players under such bans to eventually apply for reinstatement after sitting out two years.

Mejia was reinstated last July by MLB and pitched for the Mets’ Dominican Summer League team. The Mets released him last November.

After Mejia pitched in the Dominican winter league, the Red Sox signed him in January.

“I never thought about not playing baseball,” he said. “I just kept working and waited for my opportunity to get back.

“I know I have so many years (to play) baseball. Now I can have fun. Baseball is fun.”

Mejia knows there will be skeptics and critics.

“I always stay positive,” he said. “People always talk. Just don’t listen. Keep focusing on baseball and do your job.”

Mejia’s re-entry into pro ball has not been easy. Assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket, he experienced some blowups (five runs in one inning, four runs in 1/3 of an inning) and his ERA hit 6.75 in 33 games with 39 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.

He missed most of July with a sore back and made six rehab appearances in Lowell before reaching Portland on Thursday.

In the eighth inning, Mejia showed a 94 mph fastball, along with a slider, change-up and splitter.

“I saw a crisp fastball,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott said. “I saw a delivery that repeats. Controlled.

“And I saw a new pitch – a splitter which has late, downward action. That’s going to be a weapon for him.”

Mejia got his only strikeout with the splitter to begin the eighth. He then induced a popup, allowed a single to left-center, and got a groundout to end the inning – 12 pitches/nine strikes.

“All I can do is keep working and keep pitching,” Mejia said.


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