NEW YORK -- Following each of his last four starts, Mets left-hander Jon Niese experienced abnormal soreness in his left shoulder, which prevented him from recovering like he wanted. Battling through it, Niese actually responded with his best stretch of the season, posting a 1.33 ERA over his three most recent outings.
But after firing seven innings of one-run ball on Monday against the Yankees, Niese felt sore enough that there was "no way" he could throw his routine between-starts bullpen session. A subsequent MRI exam revealed a bout of left shoulder tendinitis, which Niese hopes will sideline him for only one turn through the rotation.
"I could probably make the next start if I wanted to, but it would be one of those things where I would have to battle this the rest of the year," Niese said. "I just want to get it out of the way, just miss one start rather than let it linger and something worse happens."
With Niese sidelined, right-hander Collin McHugh will make a spot start on Saturday in Miami. Used sparingly out of the bullpen since a mid-May promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas, McHugh has allowed four runs over three innings of relief. Right-hander Zack Wheeler -- the Mets' No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com -- was not a consideration for Saturday's start, according to manager Terry Collins, with team officials quietly continuing to point to mid-June for Wheeler's debut.
Niese, meanwhile, will not attempt to throw until Tuesday. Should all go well, he could slot back into the rotation as soon as June 7 against the Marlins at Citi Field.
If the Mets did not believe Niese could meet that deadline, they would have placed him on the disabled list now in order to promote an extra reliever. Instead, they will proceed with a shorthanded bullpen in the hope that Niese can quickly recover.
"Obviously, the MRI today put me at a lot more ease, being that there's nothing wrong with it structurally," Niese said of his shoulder. "Hopefully, rest will cure it. I'm almost positive that it will."
Niese's relatively lengthy injury history includes leg, oblique and cardiac problems, most of them due to freak issues or injuries. Thanks in part to his clean mechanics, Niese had never experienced arm trouble as a big leaguer until now.
But spending much of this early season battling those trademark mechanics, Niese made a recent effort to raise his arm slot back to where it used to be. He said the alteration may have played a role in his shoulder woes.
Niese continued to pitch through the discomfort simply because, in his words, it was not that bad. He did not feel any pain during starts, only in the days that followed them.
"When you get to know Jon Niese, he's a competitive guy," Collins said. "They pitch through things. All the great ones do."
Quintanilla up as Mets place Tejada on DL
NEW YORK -- Ruben Tejada's assignment to the disabled list on Thursday came at a most inopportune time for the shortstop, who had been battling a massive slump and fighting daily for his job.
There are no guarantees it will be waiting for him when he returns.
Mets manager Terry Collins indicated that Omar Quintanilla, who joined the team on Thursday from Triple-A Las Vegas, could steal playing time from Tejada if he performs well in his predecessor's absence.
"If Omar Quintanilla is playing tremendous and he's doing what we know he can do, Ruben's going to have to make sure he's ready to play," Collins said. "A lot of things can happen in the next six weeks."
That six-week window was a reference to how long it took Tejada to recover from a similar right quad strain last season. Shortly after re-injuring the muscle on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, Tejada said he does not believe this year's strain is as bad.
Still, the Mets exercised quick caution with Tejada, placing him on the DL and giving him an injection in his quad, which was tender to the touch. Tejada will fly to Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Friday to begin a period of rest and rehab.
Until Tejada recovers, Quintanilla will start almost every day at shortstop, looking to build upon the momentum he established at Vegas. In 47 games, Quintanilla batted .333 with a .419 on-base percentage, going 15-for-25 with seven RBIs and nine runs scored over his last nine games.
A positive contributor to the Mets last season before Ronny Cedeno's return made him expendable, Quintanilla is a career .220 hitter over 292 big league games with the Mets, Orioles, Rangers and Rockies. He nearly broke camp with the Mets this spring as Tejada's primary backup.
"I don't know how long he's going to be out," Quintanilla said of Tejada. "I'm just going to take it day by day and go out there and give it all I've got each night. I don't make the decisions, so I'll leave it on them."