Monday, March 4, 2013
'Swing-man' Hef ready if Johan unable
By Adam Rubin
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jeremy Hefner's rotation fate most likely is tied to Johan Santana's health. Otherwise, Hefner could end up taking one of the final spots in the bullpen or land at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Hefner, who turns 27 next Monday, knows the scenario well.
"First and foremost, I want Johan to be healthy," said Hefner, who would appear the leading candidate among a group of potential starters that also includes Collin McHugh, Jenrry Mejia and Aaron Laffey. "He's a leader of this team. If something happens and he's not able to go, then obviously that would maybe fall on my shoulders. I'm going to be prepared to go out and give it my best whenever my name is called. And whatever happens with Johan will take care of itself."
Hefner allowed a first-inning solo homer to Braves newcomer Justin Upton but no other damage in three innings Monday.
He served in a swing role with the Mets in 2012 -- making 13 starts and 13 relief appearances. He now has logged 2.0, 2.1, 1.2 and 3.0 innings in his four Grapefruit League appearances so far as he stretches out for a starter or long-relief role.
"I'm taking it kind of like last year, as an in-between guy, kind of the swing man," Hefner said. "I'm definitely not guaranteed a spot by any means, so I'm trying to prove myself and prove versatility. I threw the last two innings of a game my last outing and now I'm starting. I'm just taking it day by day, whatever they ask me to do."
Hefner allowed consecutive singles to Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson to open the second inning Monday, but rallied by coaxing Blake DeWitt into a double play and getting Tyler Pastornicky to fly out. He then tossed a 1-2-3 third, ending his outing by striking out Jason Heyward.
"Really I just left the ball up to Justin, and he got a hold of it," Hefner said.
Hefner and the Mets got a partial look at Atlanta's formidable lineup Monday with Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton in the Nos. 2-4 slots.
"Throw [Freddie] Freeman in there and [Dan] Uggla and they rank up there with Washington," Hefner said. "They're a good lineup."
Hefner had an 8.53 ERA in two appearances (one start) last season against the Braves, so he was heartened to have a positive outing against them.
"Those are good big league hitters," Hefner said. "You go out and give up one run to them, it's a positive thing. And we're going to be facing those guys a lot this year."