MIAMI -- Mets manager Willie Randolph has chosen to start rookie Philip Humber against the Nationals on Wednesday in what could be a crucial game for the Mets and their playoff hopes. It will be Humber's first career start. Randolph made the hunch decision on Saturday and announced it before Sunday's game against the Marlins.

"He'll get the ball and help us win a ballgame," Randolph said, noting that the decision came down to Humber or left-hander Dave Williams.

Humber has pitched three innings -- giving up one run in two innings against the Reds on Sept. 5 -- since being recalled from Triple-A New Orleans. The last game he started was for New Orleans on Aug. 27 against Sacramento. He was 11-9 with a 4.27 ERA for the Zephyrs, but allowed just three hits and one earned run over his last 13 1/3 innings.

Randolph was asked if it worried him that Humber -- the club's No. 1 pick and third overall selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft -- might be rusty.

"He could be sharp -- you never know," Randolph said. "We'll have him throw a couple of simulated games, get him sharp and hope for the best."

The manager informed Humber on Saturday in time for him to drive to the Mets' facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and pitch a three-inning simulated game that night. The Mets had to round up some Minor Leaguers on short notice.

"I felt a little sorry for the players," Humber said. "They'd been out playing all afternoon, then they had to come back out for me."

Still, Humber is obviously thrilled. He was passed over for Mike Pelfrey at Spring Training's end, and it appeared for the longest time as if his chance would not come this season.

"That's why you have to stay ready," Humber said. "In the simulated game, I was actually surprised how good my offspeed stuff was, and my control was good. I only got behind one batter in three innings."

Humber suspects it may have worked out for the best for him to get more Minor League experience before being presented with such a dramatic opportunity to help the Mets reach the playoffs.

"I've got a full year of experience under my belt," Humber said. "I feel a lot more comfortable at this level. I feel a lot more confident with all three of my pitches. So I feel more ready to make a start than I ever have."

After a pause, he added, "It's going to be fun competing. I'm getting my chance."

Wagner ready: Closer Billy Wagner, who was unavailable for two games because of back spasms, pronounced that he would have been ready to pitch if he had been needed on Saturday. Still, he thought it was a plus that the Mets were able to win without him.

"That was good," Wagner said. "I got another day of keeping it hot, keeping it loose, playing catch, feeling good."

He noted that he spent some of the game in a hot tub.

"Just like an old man," he said. "[It] felt good."

Wagner reported no setbacks after more treatment before Sunday's game, and said that with the Mets in a race for the playoffs, this is no time to wait to be 100 percent healthy.

"I think everybody has an understanding of what we have at stake," Wagner said. "You see guys play through pain and doing a lot of things to be able to play. There's no rest. We've got guys playing hurt. That's what it's about this time of year. Guys are picking it up, and when things aren't going well, finding ways to make things happen."

Anderson's appeal set: Utility infielder Marlon Anderson will attempt to have his two-game suspension reduced by a game at his hearing on Tuesday.

Anderson was tossed out of a game against the Phillies last Sunday for arguing a pitch call by umpire Dan Iassogna. Anderson said this was not his first negative encounter with Iassogna, who ejected him from a game several years ago.

"With what he said and the history of it, I feel I have a good chance of getting the suspension reduced," Anderson said. He did not elaborate.

The Mets chose to wait until outfielder Lastings Milledge finishes serving his three-game suspension after Monday's game, so as not to risk having Anderson and Milledge out at the same time.

Duque improving: Veteran right-hander Orlando Hernandez, who has only pitched six innings since Aug. 30, plans to test the durability of his injured right foot on Monday or Tuesday.

Hernandez, 9-5 with a 3.75 ERA, has been wearing a boot on the foot since he last pitched on Sept. 11, when he suffered a strained tendon.

"I feel now a different pain than before," he said, noting that the pain isn't nearly as severe.

The Mets are hopeful of having his services should they make the playoffs.

Up next: The Mets open a three-game series on Monday at home against the Nationals at 7:10 p.m. ET, with Pelfrey (3-7, 5.24) going against lefty Matt Chico (5-9, 4.74).