WASHINGTON -- Though there is no longer room for Jeremy Hefner in the rotation, the Mets came away pleased enough with Hefner's last two starts that they will attempt to keep him on their roster as a reliever.
"I'd like to try to keep him here if I can," manager Terry Collins said Thursday, a day after Hefner rebounded from Adam LaRoche's three-run homer to submit his second consecutive quality start. "He's pitched well enough to stay here."
But Hefner's fate may ultimately hinge upon reliever Jon Rauch, who is nursing a right elbow injury in New York and will meet with doctors Friday. If the Mets place Rauch on the disabled list, they will be able to keep Hefner when they activate Chris Young from the paternity list this weekend. But if Rauch proves himself healthy enough to avoid the DL, the Mets may have no choice but to ship Hefner back to Triple-A Buffalo.
"Whatever capacity they need me to be in, either here or in Buffalo, I'm on board for that," Hefner said. "I want to win just like the other 25 guys in here do. So if I'm better suited down there, then that's fine. If I'm here, then I'll compete and give my best."
After a strong early-season showing at Buffalo, Hefner has compiled a 1-3 record and 5.32 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances with the Mets, striking out 15 and walking two. But those numbers may be misleading; six of the 14 earned runs against Hefner came during his May 24 start against the Padres, after he returned to the mound following an hour-plus rain delay.
"He pounds the strike zone," Collins said. "One of the things we want to have here is when we go to the bullpen, you know that bases on balls aren't going to beat you. Somebody's going to have to swing the bat."
Bay scratched with flu, hopes to play Friday
WASHINGTON -- Outfielder Jason Bay's return to the lineup has been delayed another day. Bay was a late scratch from Thursday's lineup card with flu-like symptoms, one day after the Mets activated their starting left fielder from the disabled list, but did not play him.
Bay was originally scheduled to bat sixth and play left field for the Mets against Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang, but the team scratched him about a half-hour before Thursday's 1:05 p.m. ET scheduled first pitch after he became violently ill in the clubhouse. Bay believes his nausea was due to an adverse reaction to the antibiotics he was taking for a sinus infection.
"All of the sudden it just kind of came up," Bay said after the Mets' 3-1 win over the Nationals. "Hopefully, I'll play [Friday]."
Scott Hairston, who typically starts only against left-handed pitchers, replaced Bay in left.
The Mets activated Bay on Wednesday following a six-week absence with a fractured left rib. But they did not start him, citing his lingering illness and the rigors of his long travel day.
Bay was batting .240 with three home runs prior to his injury.
Quintanilla cleared to play, in lineup for finale
WASHINGTON -- Mets manager Terry Collins had already spoken to his boss, Sandy Alderson, about Minor League names ranging from Sean Kazmar to Wilfredo Tovar. Collins feared Thursday morning that he had lost another shortstop to injury, after Omar Quintanilla bruised his left index finger on a diving play the night before.
It turns out the manager's worst fears were unwarranted; after a battery of tests, the Mets deemed Quintanilla healthy enough to play, slotting him eighth in their lineup against the Nationals. But the episode did serve to underscore how thin the Mets are at a critical defensive position.
"If you play shortstop," Collins said, "your name's been mentioned the past few days."
The issue is that Quintanilla is already playing as the team's fourth-string shortstop, behind Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner. All three of those players are injured, with none of them due back particularly soon. So an injury to Quintanilla would have forced the Mets to proceed with their fifth option, rookie Jordany Valdespin, a natural second baseman who committed two errors at shortstop Tuesday on routine ground balls.
"I already talked to Jordany about it the other night and told him that those kind of games, you don't want them to happen, but they do happen," Collins said. "And at this level, obviously, they become blown out of proportion. But if you're going to play at this level, you've got to learn how to get over it."
Quintanilla is hardly the Mets' ideal choice at shortstop, but he has proven to be a significantly better defender than Valdespin. And defense is important -- so much so that when he heard about Quintanilla's injury, Collins spoke to Alderson about Kazmar, a defensive whiz who was recently promoted to Triple-A Buffalo, and Tovar, who has never played above Class A ball.
Asked early Monday about his level of concern, Collins scrunched his face and said: "Play Valdespin."
"You've got to get the next guy ready to play," Collins said, "so that's what we've been talking about this morning."
That next guy will not be Tejada, who suffered a setback with his strained right quad during a rehab game Tuesday at Triple-A Buffalo. It will not be Cedeno, whose strained left calf will prevent him from appearing in a Minor League game until Sunday at the earliest. And it will not be Turner, whose sprained right ankle should keep him out for at least another two weeks.
For now, it will be Quintanilla, assuming he can keep himself healthy enough to play. An x-ray taken in Washington proved inconclusive, prompting Quintanilla to schedule a second test back in New York to determine whether he has suffered a fracture. He said the injury mostly affects him while swinging the bat, despite the fact that he went 2-for-3 on Thursday and made several fine plays in the field.
"I couldn't really get a tight grip on the bat," Quintanilla said. "But it loosened up. I went out there and grinded it out, and we got the win."
Reprinted Johan no-no tickets on sale Monday
WASHINGTON -- The Mets announced Thursday that they plan to sell reprinted tickets from Johan Santana's no-hitter for $50, plus order and shipping fees. The tickets will be available beginning Monday at 10 a.m. ET on Mets.com.
Season-ticket holders will receive complimentary reprints of every seat in their account, though an order and shipping fee will apply for those tickets. Partial season-ticket holders whose packages included the June 1 game against the Cardinals will receive a discounted rate of $30 per ticket. Partial season-ticket holders whose plan did not include the game can purchase reprints for $40 through an exclusive presale beginning Friday on Mets.com.
The Mets will reprint tickets from all 41,922 seats at Citi Field. There is a limit of four seats per order.