PITTSBURGH -- Jeremy Hefner admitted being caught off guard by Terry Collins lifting him from a tie ballgame for pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin to lead off the top of the eighth. After all, Hefner's pitch count was at a modest 78 and he had posted six straight scoreless frames after surrendering a first-inning two-run homer to Pedro Alvarez.
Still, Hefner added, he was not in any position given his stature on the team to publicly dissent with his manager's decision.
New York Mets
Collins said he lifted Hefner for Valdespin because the Pirates bullpen is formidable, and he wanted to go for the win before having to match up inning for inning with it in a prolonged affair. He said Hefner probably would have hit if the Mets already had two outs in the eighth and none on, but not to open a fresh frame.
Valdespin ended up attempting to bunt, which disappointed Collins. The at-bat ended with Mark Melancon striking out Valdespin.
Asked if he knew he was done at that point, Hefner said: "No. I didn't. It is what it is. Terry made a call. And I completely support it. I'm not in a position in my career to confront him there or whatever. I agree it. I'm for it. ... He's got to make a decision there, and he did. So that's what it is. Obviously I want to stay in the game. I want to stay as long as I can. But ultimately it's out of my control. If I'm out there, I'm going to give it my all until they take the ball away from me."
Hefner, incidentally, has earned enough faith from Collins that he will start the second-half opener next Friday at Citi Field against the Phillies.
As for the lone damage he surrendered, the two-run homer by Alvarez in the first inning, Hefner said after the 3-2, 11-inning loss: "I was trying to go fastball away, and it caught a little more of the plate than I would have liked. It was still a decent pitch, first pitch. I mean, he's got 24 homers for a reason. I've got to make a better pitch there and maybe we win the ballgame."