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.
HEFNER: Solid outing today.
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.
Jonathan Niese threw 4.2 scoreless innings this afternoon against the Tigers, begging the question: Why not just off call the charade with Johan Santana?
It is clear Santana won’t be ready for the start of the season, and the only possible result in rushing him is risk injury.
Terry Collins has already said Niese would replace Santana as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster if the veteran lefty isn’t ready.
The Mets are waiting for Santana to throw batting practice and in the bullpen before he gets in a game, and then, under normal circumstances make six exhibition starts until he stretches it 30 innings. Santana’s current timetable is to make four starts.
The Mets can’t deal Santana because of his $31 million contract, and their best value for him is for him to pitch as well as possible.
That begins with being healthy.
METS NOTES: Frank Francisco said he’s feeling fine after yesterday’s bullpen session. He said the next step is another bullpen in a day or two, “maybe,” he said. … Jenrry Mejia gave up one hit in a scoreless inning today against Detroit.
Do not read into Zack Wheeler’s demotion that the Mets think Jenrry Mejia will replace Johan Santana on the roster and in the rotation.
When I asked Terry Collins of his preparation plans for life without Santana to start the season, the name Jeremy Hefner was only one to pop out. And, without hesitation.
MEJIA: May pitch today.
Collin McHugh, who was also demoted to the minor league camp, made spot starts last year and could be in position again if something were to develop with Hefner.
Mejia’s development this spring was hindered when he reported late because of a visa issue and was further delayed with the thyroid ailment. He is scheduled to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Pitchers start at two innings or 30 pitches and like to work up to seven innings and 100 pitches. There’s no way Mejia can build himself up to that with the time remaining in camp.
Mejia was on the travel squad this morning to Lakeland, where the Mets will play the Tigers again.
The Mets set back Mejia’s career when they rushed him to the majors as a reliever – there was no set relief role – then optioned him back to the minors as a starter at which time he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.
Have you seen Johan Santana?
I found Waldo, but Santana remains among the missing.
WALDO: Have you seen Santana?
That is the question of the day as the increasingly moody left-hander was nowhere to be found despite being scheduled to work out.
Santana has been irritated since the weekend when he threw an unscheduled bullpen session. Manager Terry Collins was unaware and suggested it might be in response to the suggestion by GM Sandy Alderson he wasn’t in top shape when he reported.
Santana, even with his string of injuries that would make anybody depressed, has usually been accessible and friendly. Now, he doesn’t acknowledge hello and blows off the simplest of questions.
Collins excused Santana from today’s workout when the pitcher said he felt it would be better off if he concentrated on physical therapy, such as stretching out his arm.
“We are day to day with him,’’ Collins said. “He’s ready when he’s ready.’’
Collins doesn’t have a date set, but it is closing in on time for a decision to put Santana on the disabled and let Jeremy Hefner prepare himself for Santana’s spot of the staff and Jon Niese to prepare to start Opening Day.
Good morning from Lakeland. Just arrived. The drive was a little over two hours, straight highways all the way through past Yeehaw Junction, dozens of orange groves, junkyards, farms and dilapidated motels.
The weather is nice, but it wasn’t a pretty drive.
The Tigers play in a place called Joker Marchant Stadium, built in 1966. It has been renovated several times. There’s a hill behind the left field fence, much like what the Mets have at Tradition Field in right.
The Mets’ bus just arrived and I’ll be heading to the clubhouse in a few minutes. The Tigers are taking batting practice and there’s only a few people in the stands.