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Hefner pitching well, trying to stick

5/25/2013

As the battle to stay in the Mets rotation thickens over, because of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler's impending arrival, Jeremy Hefner is putting up a fight to stick around.

"Jeremy Hefner, just because he's 0-5 doesn't mean he's pitched poorly. He's had some tough games but this guy has had some good games too that we didn't score runs for him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "The next few times out, Jeremy Hefner could be a guy that certainly stays in the rotation."

Hefner is in the mix to be the pitcher who receives the boot for Wheeler but he's pitching well as of late. After tossing six innings of two-run ball against Atlanta on Friday, Hefner has thrown four quality starts in his last six outings. In a cruel twist of fate, Hefner is 0-5 and the Mets are currently 0-9 in games he's appeared in this season, pending the outcome of Friday's suspended game.

"I experienced last year with Matt [Harvey] kind of the same situation. I don’t feel pressure. I feel I am good enough to be here," Hefner said on Saturday.

"If I go do what I am capable of -- if my performance matches my expectations -- then I have no doubt in my mind I will stay here. I can’t control if they send me down. All I can control is pitching against the Yankees in four days, doing my best and trying to go out and throw nine innings."

The Mets are going to eventually have to make a move to call up Wheeler, who should be up after the Super 2 deadline passes in June. The candidates to be removed from the rotation are seemingly Hefner (0-5, 4.76 ERA), Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.04) and Shaun Marcum (0-5, 6.59). None have made a stellar case to date that they should not be the one to be yanked from the rotation.

As the Mets survey the options, Hefner could be hurt by his ability to pitch out of the bullpen. Over the last two seasons, Hefner's pitched in 36 games for the Mets and has made 14 bullpen appearances. Gee has three bullpen appearances in his career, with zero coming after 2011, and Marcum has just one since 2007.

The Mets signed Marcum to a one-year, $4-milliond deal this offseason with incentives that could possibly push the deal to $8 million. When Collins was asked about whether Marcum being a big acquisition plays into decisions about the rotation, the manager didn't make it seem like the Mets would consider sending Marcum to the bullpen. Marcum starts Sunday.

"That's where Shaun fits [in the rotation]. He's not a guy who's been a relief pitcher very much in his career. He's been a starter. That's where we signed him, that's what he's got to do," Collins said. "I thought the last couple of starts we started to see the Shaun Marcum that we signed. That goes back to the same thing, the reason spring training is as long as it is. He's now finally gotten to the point where he's ready to pitch like he's ready to start the season."