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02/21/09 3:41 PM EST

Redding suffers early setback

Mets righty rushes throwing program, hurts pitching shoulder

PORT ST LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Redding and his wife spent last Thanksgiving alone in a Baltimore hotel room, waiting for the holiday to pass. There was little time for celebration, because Redding had to be in an operating room by 6 a.m. the following day. And now, nearly three months later, the effects of that operation still linger.

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Redding may have fully healed from the surgery to repair a stress fracture in the second toe of his left foot, but the process came at a cost. Discouraged from starting his regular throwing program until the foot had healed, Redding tried to make up for lost time. And the result is a right shoulder injury that will keep him off a mound until at least late next week.

"I just pushed it too quick," Redding said. "I got down here and I tried to force it, and it caused some discomfort in the back of my shoulder."

Not the best news for a pitcher who, at 31 years old, is battling Freddy Garcia and Jon Niese for the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation. Garcia has an edge in big league experience and success. Niese has an edge in youth and prospect status. And so Redding's only edge comes from his $2.25 million guaranteed contract, an incentive for the Mets to keep him on the team as long as he is healthy.

Right now, he's not. Redding played long toss from 100 feet on Saturday, and he hopes to work his way up to 150 feet before taking a mound. If all goes well, Redding said, he could throw a light bullpen session by the end of next week, making it certain that he won't see game action until well into March.

The stress fracture began bothering him in June -- at that point, only after starts, but to an increasing degree as the season progressed. Still, Redding mustered a 10-11 record and a 4.95 ERA with the Nationals, though his 6.82 ERA after the All-Star break exposed the fact that he was pitching in some degree of pain.

"I never said anything about it, because I take pride in taking the mound every fifth day," Redding said.

He underwent surgery on the morning after Thanksgiving and -- though throwing wasn't strictly prohibited -- waited for a doctor's approval to pitch. It didn't come until 10 days remained before the start of camp.

"The foot was always fine," Redding said. "But the surgeon didn't want me to do any running or any pounding on it, so I took that as I shouldn't even try to throw."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.