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PIT@NYM: Hefner three-hits the Pirates over seven

Jeremy Hefner was praised for how he rebounded from the worst start of his career, but if he wants to improve his chances of making the Mets' 2013 Opening Day roster, he'll need to prove that it wasn't just a fluke against the Marlins on Wednesday in the season finale for both clubs.

Hefner delivered arguably the best start of his career on Sept. 26, tossing seven shutout innings against the Pirates and allowing just three hits. And it couldn't have come at a better time -- Hefner didn't record an out on Sept. 20 against the Phillies, allowing seven runs on six hits in the first inning.

"It was huge for Jeremy," Mets manager Terry Collins said after Hefner's last start. "Everybody in this room who was there his last start saw his emotions and saw that he was upset, and he had something to prove tonight: that he could pitch here. I believe that he showed everybody he belongs here. I was very happy for him."

Hefner has proven on multiple occasions that he can pitch in the Major Leagues, but has struggled with inconsistency throughout his rookie season. He has pitched as both a starter and reliever, though if he makes the team next season it will likely be a bullpen role.

Starting opposite Hefner will be Tom Koehler, who will make his first start of the season. Koehler, who made 27 starts with Triple-A New Orleans this season, has been in the bullpen since he was called up in September.

Chad Gaudin was initially slated to make the start in place of Mark Buehrle, but was needed on Tuesday in Miami's 4-3, 11-inning win over the Mets.

"Buehrle told me he was ready to go if we needed it, but he hasn't gone through his routine and I don't want to put somebody in a spot to get hurt for one game," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "If he went through his routine from start to start, it would be different, but he didn't go through anything for four days. I'm not going to risk an injury."

Koehler has a 5.40 ERA in seven relief appearances for Miami this season, most recently pitching two-thirds of an inning on Monday. He was 12-11 with a 4/17 ERA in the Minors this year.

Mets: Las Vegas could host two exhibition games in March
The Mets agreed to a two-year player development deal with the Las Vegas 51s in September, moving their top Minor League affiliate roughly 2,000 miles west of where its home for the past four years -- Buffalo, N.Y.

The convenience may not be the same, but nobody's ever complained about a trip to Las Vegas.

As such, Collins said Tuesday that the organization is toying with the idea of playing two exhibitions at their Triple-A park in Las Vegas before opening their regular-season schedule at home on April 1.

Marlins: Greenberg strikes out in his 'one at-bat'
Regardless of the outcome, Tuesday night will be one Adam Greenberg won't forget.

Greenberg, who was hit in the back of the head on the first pitch in his first and only Major League at-bat seven years ago, finally got a chance to get his "one at-bat" on Tuesday night after signing a one-day contract with the Marlins. The moment was surreal -- Greeberg received a standing ovation when Guillen used him as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.

But regardless of his motivational path back into the batter's box, Greenberg -- if only for one at-bat -- was a Major Leaguer, and NL Cy Young Award hopeful R.A. Dickey treated him as such, striking him out on three pitches.

He returned to the dugout to another standing ovation, affirmation that despite the strikeout, Greenberg's at-bat was a great end to an inspirational story.

Worth noting
• Dickey's eight strikeouts on Tuesday brought his season total to 230, the most by a Met since David Cone's 241 in 1991.

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