Jeremy Hefner, the likely replacement for Johan Santana in the rotation, gave up two homers this afternoon but rebounded to strike out the last six hitters he faced in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Atlanta.
Hefner had a solid line of two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in five innings.
Even so, Hefner wasn’t pleased, telling reporters he was concerned because he left the ball up in the strike zone. Hefner said he pitched with a chip on his shoulder the last two innings.
“I was less than thrilled about my performance before then,’’ Hefner said. “The ball was up, as evidenced by all the fly balls and hard-hit balls. I’m the guy that has to pound the bottom of the strike zone and get ground balls to be successful.’’
Hefner said earlier this week he will be ready to replace Santana at the start of the season but that’s my focus.
“I am just concentrating on getting better every game,’’ said Hefner, who started 13 games and went 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA last year for the Mets. “I will be ready if they need me.’’
Hefner also pitched in 13 games in relief last year so if he started in the rotation he could stick around in the bullpen.
DUDA COMING AROUND: Lucas Duda had many on the team concerned and manager Terry Collins scratching his head after an 0-for-7 start with seven strikeouts. However, since then he’s been batting .320 and hitting the ball with more authority. His patience at the plate has led to more walks and as a result is seeing better pitches to hit because of it. Today he crushed his second home run of the spring and has now drawn a walk in his last three games. It’s a good sign and while he is no longer a lock to start in left field, he has time enough to regain that status if this continues.
COAST TO INTERCOSTAL: Daniel Murphy, who has been sidelined with a strained intercostal muscle since February 18, took batting practice and played five innings at second base in a minor league game today. Murphy did not hit in the game and reported he felt fine. His intercostal strain, which was also initially reported as moderate, has kept him sidelined for nearly a month. Murphy, who batted .291 last season, could make his Grapefruit League debut sometime next week.
METS MUSINGS: Jordany Valdespin continued to make his case for a roster spot with a RBI single. … Manager Terry Collins indicated Aaron Laffey will get a start next week and will be Plan B if something were to happen to Hefner. Laffey was 4-6 in 16 starts last year with Toronto. … Jenrry Mejia, coming back from Tommy John surgery, is bothered with forearm tendinitis. … Before today’s game, the Mets reassigned top prospect Wilmer Flores, right-hander Carlos Torres and infielder Josh Satin to minor league camp.