Hefner OK after scare, but Marcum has neck issue
Collins unsure if veteran righty will be ready to take first turn in rotation
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- No sooner had David Wright begun delivering a rare bit of positive Mets injury news than, on a clubhouse television halfway across the room, the third baseman watched as Carlos Beltran drilled pitcher Jeremy Hefner with a comebacker.
Hefner, it turned out, suffered nothing more than a right elbow bruise, knocking him out for a couple of days. Though the right-hander said his elbow already felt better shortly after Tuesday's game, his brief scare served to underscore how thin the Mets currently are in their rotation.
Shaun Marcum was the latest starter to fall for the Mets, battling a neck issue that first arose during his bullpen session Monday. Marcum also skipped his last start after receiving a cortisone shot to treat an impingement in his right shoulder. After he left Tradition Field on Tuesday without speaking to media, the Mets announced that his impingement is "improving" and that he received anti-inflammatory medication for his neck.
For Marcum, the outlook is uncertain at best.
"He hasn't pitched in two weeks," manager Terry Collins said. "To have him all of the sudden ready to pitch Game 3 or 4, I'd be surprised."
Over the next few days, the Mets will draw up all their contingency plans, knowing that Johan Santana will definitely open the season on the disabled list and that Marcum could join him. The Mets could keep Matt Harvey on turn, slotting him second in the rotation behind Opening Day starter Jon Niese. But Collins said he may instead opt to slide Harvey between softer throwers Hefner and Dillon Gee, wanting to separate those two in the event that Marcum misses significant time.
A weightier decision is who might fill Marcum's spot in the rotation. The Mets can use Niese twice in their first five games due to an off day April 2, but will need a fifth starter by April 7. Club officials stressed that the team will not look outside the organization for rotation help -- translation: former Mets righty Chris Young is not a realistic option -- while Collins said he considers left-hander Aaron Laffey next on the depth chart.
Marcum, who signed an incentive-laden one-year deal this winter, came to the Mets with a long history of arm trouble, including shoulder and elbow issues last season. He said that cortisone injections have become part of his "spring routine" in recent years.
In addition to Marcum, the Mets plan to break camp without the services of Santana and closer Frank Francisco. Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy remain questionable for Opening Day.
Wright plays in Minors, 'optimistic' about Opening Day
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Third baseman David Wright took another sizeable step toward Opening Day on Tuesday, making five plate appearances as the designated hitter in a pair of simultaneous Minor League games.
"I've been optimistic about Opening Day since I came back to St. Lucie, and talked to the doctors and the trainers about the diagnosis," Wright said. "It's another step closer, so I'm still very optimistic."
Bouncing between a Triple-A and a Double-A game on Tradition Field's back diamonds, Wright finished 1-for-5 with a hit up the middle, also scoring from second on a single. It was his first game action since a March 12 appearance in the World Baseball Classic appearance, after which Mets trainers learned of his strained left intercostal muscle and shut him down.
"It was good to get that number of ABs that quickly," Wright said. "I felt as comfortable as I guess I could taking the two weeks off."
Because Mets Minor Leaguers are not scheduled to play in games on Wednesday, Wright will spend the day working on the Major League side at Tradition Field. Assuming all goes well, he will appear in another Minor League game on Thursday, perhaps playing the field for the first time.
Spring Minor League games are beneficial for Wright and other injured Mets because they have extremely flexible rules. Wright hit third in every inning on Tuesday, walking from one field to another to take at-bats in simultaneous games. In that fashion, he was able to record five plate appearances in roughly an hour.
To sharpen his fielding, Wright has been working daily with third-base coach Tim Teufel, who hits grounders to him at random speeds and angles. Due to disabled list backdating rules, the Mets will not use Wright in a Grapefruit League game until they are positive he will not begin the season on the DL.
• Left-hander Pedro Feliciano will remain with the Mets on a Minor League deal, the team announced Tuesday. Informing Feliciano a day earlier that he will not make the Opening Day roster, the Mets asked him to accept a Minor League assignment to build up strength in his surgically repaired left shoulder. The move cost Feliciano a chance at $1 million plus incentives had he made the team.
• Right-hander Jenrry Mejia has been diagnosed with right elbow tendinitis and will not throw a baseball for two weeks. Eventually ticketed for the rotation at Triple-A Las Vegas, Mejia will not start the season on time.
• Outfield prospect Matt den Dekker will wear a cast on his fractured right wrist for six weeks. Den Dekker, who fractured his wrist diving for a ball in Sunday's game, will not require surgery.