NEW YORK -- Though Mets manager Terry Collins said three weeks ago that he thought closer Francisco Rodriguez might be going through a "dead arm" phase, he said prior to a 4-1 win on Thursday that the Mets need to get the struggling reliever more opportunities to pitch.
"It's like he told me, the more he pitches, the better he is," Collins said. "He's been throwing the ball great, we just have not had too many opportunities in the last five days to get him in there."
Rodriguez saved his 20th game of the season on Thursday, bouncing back from a rough outing the day before when he blew a save while getting his first work in six days. Blowing his second save in a row, Rodriguez gave up the tying run in the top of the ninth before the Mets recovered to win the game in the 13th.
Despite the blown saves, Collins feels Rodriguez has been pitching well lately. Rodriguez has 15 strikeouts and just one walk in June and has not walked a batter in his past eight innings.
"We walk that tightrope about too much or too little," Collins said before the game. "I told him yesterday, 'Look you've got to get in here. I'm going to get you into the game irregardless.' We'll do it again today."
Capuano exits start with abdominal discomfort
NEW YORK -- Chris Capuano was a major pain for Oakland Thursday despite experiencing a minor hurt of his own. New York's southpaw starter worked six scoreless innings in a 4-1 victory against Oakland before being removed for precautionary reasons due to discomfort in the right side of his abdomen.
The left-hander said that he began feeling the sensation -- which he characterized as a cramp -- before the game, and he said it didn't really worsen when he was on the mound. Capuano said that he felt it once every four or five pitches, and he also said that the game's rainy conditions may have contributed. The game's start was delayed for two hours, 15 minutes because of rain.
"I felt it warming up in the bullpen," he said of his ailment. "It felt almost like a stitch in my right side, just a little crampy. It lingered a little throughout the game, not real sharp, just kind of a little dull ache. I think it could've been a little dehydration -- a little cramping -- from the two-hour delay before the game."
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Despite the injury, Capuano dominated, allowing five hits and only letting four Oakland runners reach scoring position against him. Capuano, who earned the victory, walked off the field after the last out of the sixth inning -- a popup by veteran infielder Mark Ellis -- and didn't return for the seventh.
Manager Terry Collins said that pitching coach Dan Warthen was always aware of Capuano's condition, and he also said that the pitcher had lobbied to stay in the game as long as possible. Warthen spoke with Capuano between innings, and Collins made the executive decision that the hurler had done enough.
"You guys know this guy. Nobody's in better shape," said Collins. "He's one of those five-percent body fat guys. The last thing we needed was to send him out there dehydrated and have him pull something."
The left-hander was rarely challenged on Thursday, and he worked out of a bases-loaded jam with two outs in the fourth inning. Capuano, who missed all of 2008 and '09 while battling an elbow ailment, is expected to make his next rotation turn, and he said he understood why the Mets treated him so carefully.
"I think they just wanted to be cautious with it," he said. "As a pitcher, you never want to come out of the game. I think it's smart. I have an extra day before my next start. Let's nip it in the bud and get rid of it."
New York has been without staff ace Johan Santana all season as the left-hander attempts to return from a shoulder injury, and the Mets also lost Chris Young to a shoulder injury back in May.
Capuano said that he watched the end of Wednesday's extra-inning game from his bedroom, and that he had considered coming back to Citi Field in case the Mets needed him as a pinch-runner. He felt fine, he said, until the rain delay forced him to alter his pregame routine on Thursday.
"It's a balancing act," he said. "You don't want to just ride the [exercise] bike the whole time, because you don't know how long the delay is going to be. At the same time, you don't want to get cold and get out there without being warm. You try to stay warm, you try to stay relaxed, and I think that cramp was a result of that."
Wright could return to Mets in three weeks
NEW YORK -- It isn't all bad news on the injury front for the Mets.
The club received a welcome bulletin after a 4-1 win over the A's on Thursday, when David Wright underwent an MRI on his back and was given clearance to ramp up his exercise schedule in preparation for a return to the active roster.
General manager Sandy Alderson said that Wright, who has been sidelined since May 16 with a stress fracture in his lower back, could return in a little as three weeks. Wright will report to the team's Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Friday to begin his workout regimen. The five-time All-Star will begin with light weight work before ramping up to batting practice and fielding drills at third base.
"He was given the green light to commence fuller baseball activity," Alderson said. "Right now, we anticipate it's going to be at least a couple weeks -- maybe three weeks -- because he's going to have to exercise and progress to full baseball activity and then playing games. We're still talking about conceivably a several-week process, but it is good news that he's been given the green light."
Alderson said that Wright would start full exercise activity immediately, but that it would likely take some time for him to be ready to work his trunk or to start swinging the bat. That last task -- along with playing in the field -- will only take place after Wright has gotten loose and begun to re-work the muscles involved.
Wright was not immediately available for comment, but a couple teammates spoke to his state of mind. Shortstop Jose Reyes and fill-in third baseman Daniel Murphy both said that Wright seemed excited to get back on the field, and they also said that the Mets need him back as soon as he's ready.
"It is nice to hear David's coming back soon, because we need him," said Reyes. "Hopefully, he can go down to Florida and do whatever it takes to be 100 percent."
"Good luck in Port St. Lucie," Reyes added. "There's not much to do there. Get well soon because we need you here."
Cashman, Reyes shake off trade talk
NEW YORK -- Mets shortstop Jose Reyes said earlier this week that he would not begin contract negotiations until the end of the season, but that has not stopped rumors from circulating.
There has been speculation that Reyes, who is enjoying a spectacular year in the final season of his contract, could join the crosstown Yankees either via trade or as a free agent, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in the New York Daily News on Thursday that the club was not interested in Reyes.
When asked about the news, Reyes said prior to a 4-1 win over the A's that he was focused on this season and the Mets. He showed no signs of distraction during the game, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"I don't worry about that. I play for the New York Mets," Reyes said. "I don't care what he said. I'm focused on this team."
Duda earns back-to-back starts at first base
NEW YORK -- Lucas Duda reached base three times in six plate appearances on Wednesday against the A's and was rewarded a day later with another start at first base in the series finale at Citi Field.
"I wasn't expecting to get the start yesterday because we were seeing a lefty, but today, we're seeing a righty," said Duda, who bats left-handed. "I think the more at-bats I get consecutively, we'll get to find out what I can do to help the team."
Duda went 1-for-4 from the seventh spot in the lineup on Thursday, starting back-to-back games for the fourth time this season. He has yet to start three consecutive games this season.
Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game that he made the decision in part due to Tuesday's news that starting first baseman Ike Davis, out since May 10 with an ankle injury, could miss the rest of the season if he is not able to run in three weeks.
Collins said he will be looking to give Duda more at-bats, to see where he'll fit in on the team going forward.
"I'm going to get him as many at-bats as I possibly can," Collins said. "We're going to try to make sure that we don't put him in a situation where he's over his head. We brought him here for a purpose. He's had some pretty good at-bats the last couple of days, so I'm going to try to get him a number more."
This is Duda's second stint with the Mets this season, having been sent down to Triple-A in early May after making the big club out of Spring Training. In 38 games with Buffalo this season, he posted a 1.011 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, versus a .470 mark in 22 games with New York.
Duda told reporters that he struggled with his confidence during his first time in the Majors but said he is beginning to gain confidence and that regular playing time will only help the process.
With Davis and third baseman David Wright on the shelf, Duda is one of four players -- along with Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner -- competing for the three starting spots in an infield that includes shortstop Jose Reyes.
"Going out there and having four, five at-bats every day, I think that's definitely going to help your timing, your confidence, all those things," Duda said.
Mets spell slumping Tejada against A's
NEW YORK -- Mets second baseman Ruben Tejada was given the day off in a 4-1 win on Thursday, appearing as a defensive substitution in the ninth inning.
Manager Terry Collins wanted to rest Tejada after a 10-game stretch in which his batting average plummeted from .338 to .272.Collins hopes the rest will allow Tejada to refocus and regain his form but said he will be back in the lineup when the Mets travel to Texas on Friday.
"When you see that, I don't call it pressing, but I think you're starting to see a little fatigue," Collins said. "He really wants to hit something as hard as he can to show you that he can, instead of just staying inside the baseball."
Tejada went 0-for-3 with a walk Wednesday night and is hitting .152 in his past 10 games. Still, while his average has been low, he's still getting on base and has drawn six walks during that stretch, bumping his on-base percentage to .293. He has a .353 on-base percentage for the season.
"He's out of his game plan right now," Collins said. "Those swings he took last night, they're all big, aggressive, that's just not what he's been doing."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.