MIAMI -- Marlon Anderson's tenure with the Mets has quite possibly come to an end.

To make room for their fifth starter, Livan Hernandez, on their active roster, the Mets designated Anderson for assignment prior to Saturday's game against the Marlins. The move came as little surprise after the Mets signed Gary Sheffield last week, negating the need for Anderson's bat off the bench.

But it was not an easy decision.

"That was a tough choice for us," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "Marlon's been a good player for us -- a good pinch-hitter for us. He just didn't have the versatility that we thought we'd need. With that last acquisition that we made, it made it even more difficult to keep him."

Anderson, 35, was 0-for-4 so far this season, his third successive serving as the primary left-handed pinch-hitter for the Mets. Wildly productive in that role in 2007, hitting .319 with 25 RBIs in just 69 at-bats, Anderson became expendable after he hit .210 in a similar role last season.

His job status was in question for most of the spring, and became even more uncertain after the Mets signed Sheffield. Though Sheffield is another right-handed batter on a bench full of them, he, like Anderson, is a defensive liability, and his presence reduced Manuel's flexibility late in games.

The team's other primary pinch-hitter, Fernando Tatis, is also right-handed. But if Sheffield is to start games in right field, as Manuel has indicated he will, then the Mets will be able to use Ryan Church's left-handed bat off the bench. Jeremy Reed, a defensive-minded fifth outfielder who hit a game-tying single in the ninth inning Friday, is also a younger, cheaper left-handed option.

If any team claims Anderson off waivers, they will have to pay the pro-rated portion of his $1.15 million 2009 salary. If not, the Mets will have to eat the remainder of the contract, and Anderson can choose either to accept a Minor League assignment, or to become a big league free agent and negotiate a lesser salary with another club.

The Mets are hoping that if Anderson -- a 12-year veteran of six teams and a pleasant clubhouse presence -- is not claimed, he would consider an assignment within their own organization.

"I expressed how I felt that he still could play," Manuel said, "that he would still find a place at the Major League level, and that what we're trying to do here and accomplish here is going to take more than 25 men, and he could definitely still be a part of that at some point. I did mention that if he were to play at a lower level, we'd definitely love to have him in our system."