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NEW YORK -- John Maine's mood after the Mets' 5-2 win against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night could be summarized like this: What next?
|John Maine had to leave the game early -- his status for his next start is uncertain.|
Finally feeling as though he was clearing a hurdle, even if his fastball velocity continued to underwhelm, the New York Mets right-hander stranded the bases loaded in the third inning by striking out ballyhooed prospect Jason Heyward with an 89 mph fastball.
The problem: While pitching to Heyward, Maine began to feel spasms and pain emanating from his left, non-throwing elbow. Three batters into the next inning, unable to generate more than low-80s zip with his fastball, manager Jerry Manuel and trainer Ray Ramirez came to the mound.
And Maine departed.
"It's just one thing after another so far," said Maine, who entered Friday's start with a 10.38 ERA. "It's not the way I wanted it to go today because I finally started feeling good pitching."
Essentially, Maine was unable to generate power because his left arm could not contribute during his delivery. He ultimately was charged with one run on four hits and two walks while striking out three in 3 2/3 innings.
"I couldn't bring my arm down," Maine said. "It'd lock up and get kind of stuck. I was able to throw. I went out there and threw in the fourth inning -- I don't know how effective. Like I said, it's just one thing after another."
Manuel had only heard about such an injury once before. That also involved Maine, two seasons ago during a start in Philadelphia. That time, Maine complained of spasms and cramping in his left forearm. He was able to make his next start as scheduled.
"It was sore, but I didn't miss any time for it," Maine recalled. "The last time it happened it was a couple of days and it was OK. I'll come in tomorrow and see how it feels. I don't know what you can do for it. There's not much you can do for it.
"Obviously, it's not a common thing. You don't see it that often. I don't know. It's frustrating. The whole thing. You just can't move your arm. You can't power yourself through. You're just basically using one arm. That's what's hard about it. You can't give 100-percent effort."
The good news: If Maine cannot make his next start, an alternative already on the roster stepped up.
Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who started for 10 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan before signing with the Mets on a minor-league contract, contributed an uncharacteristically high seven strikeouts. He limited the Braves to one run on two hits and a walk in three innings.
Combined with a two-inning outing Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs, Takahashi has now thrown 90 pitches in relief in a three-day span -- at least giving him a shot to contribute a starter's length in place of Maine on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers if need be.
Still, Takahashi acknowledged, he would have to be more economical with pitches -- getting more pitches put in play -- in order to contribute a starter's innings count.
"I'm not sure pitching like six innings," Takahashi said through an interpreter. "Less strikeouts, less pitches, and a lot of ground balls, I'll do that."
Of course, this is moot for now, until Maine has time to reassess how he feels.
"I think it's going to be all right," Maine said. "I hope it is.
"I started to feel good -- all the work I put in between the last two starts. I was right there. A couple of walks here, a bad pitch here, but overall I felt fine. The ball was coming out. I was around the zone. I didn't miss many up. I was starting to figure it out and I felt good. That makes it more frustrating, something like this. It's frustrating. It's not that I get knocked out of the game. I get forced out by this."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.