WASHINGTON -- Though there is no longer room for Jeremy Hefner in the rotation, the Mets came away pleased enough with Hefner's last two starts that they will attempt to keep him on their roster as a reliever.
"I'd like to try to keep him here if I can," manager Terry Collins said Thursday, a day after Hefner rebounded from Adam LaRoche's three-run homer to submit his second consecutive quality start. "He's pitched well enough to stay here."
But Hefner's fate may ultimately hinge upon reliever Jon Rauch, who is nursing a right elbow injury in New York and will meet with doctors Friday. If the Mets place Rauch on the disabled list, they will be able to keep Hefner when they activate Chris Young from the paternity list this weekend. But if Rauch proves himself healthy enough to avoid the DL, the Mets may have no choice but to ship Hefner back to Triple-A Buffalo.
"Whatever capacity they need me to be in, either here or in Buffalo, I'm on board for that," Hefner said. "I want to win just like the other 25 guys in here do. So if I'm better suited down there, then that's fine. If I'm here, then I'll compete and give my best."
After a strong early-season showing at Buffalo, Hefner has compiled a 1-3 record and 5.32 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances with the Mets, striking out 15 and walking two. But those numbers may be misleading; six of the 14 earned runs against Hefner came during his May 24 start against the Padres, after he returned to the mound following an hour-plus rain delay.
"He pounds the strike zone," Collins said. "One of the things we want to have here is when we go to the bullpen, you know that bases on balls aren't going to beat you. Somebody's going to have to swing the bat."