El Duque to resume throwing Tuesday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets pitcher Orlando Hernandez, sidelined at spring training because of arthritis in his neck, is expected to resume throwing Tuesday.

Hernandez received a cortisone shot Thursday after leaving camp and returning to New York to have his neck examined. The 41-year-old right-hander is penciled in as the team's No. 2 starter behind Tom Glavine.

El Duque's health is a major issue for the Mets, who won the NL East in 2006 and came within one victory of the World Series. Their aging and unsettled rotation is a big question mark this year.

Hernandez went 11-11 with a 4.66 ERA last season, including 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts after the Mets acquired him from Arizona in late May. But he missed the playoffs because of a torn calf muscle.

New York already is without Pedro Martinez, out until at least midseason following rotator cuff surgery. Among those competing for starting jobs are prospects Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber and Jason Vargas, plus veterans Chan Ho Park, Jorge Sosa and Aaron Sele.

Mets manager Willie Randolph is excited about two new utility players he could have on his bench: Damion Easley and David Newhan. "Their value is really all over the place," Randolph said. Easley can play anywhere in the infield and could be used as an emergency outfielder, though Randolph said he would prefer to keep the veteran in the infield. Newhan, meanwhile, can play second base, third or any outfield position for the Mets. "I love versatility," Randolph said. "I love guys that can give me options when I need them to step in."