Maine's season may be done
Mets could shut down righty as shoulder limits effectiveness
NEW YORK -- Less than 24 hours after a compromised performance added a layer of doubt to the immediate future of John Maine, that doubt was amplified by his manager. Jerry Manuel presented a scenario Sunday morning that had Maine being shut down for the remainder of the season because of the bone spur in his right shoulder and the pain it has caused. And by the time the Mets were dealing with the postmortems of Sunday's loss, the chance that Maine's season has ended appeared to be greater.
While general manager Omar Minaya said Maine still is scheduled to start the Mets' first game in Miami on Friday night, Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen said contingency plans are in place in case the condition of Maine's right shoulder -- his sore rotator cuff -- worsens.
Before the Mets played the Astros on Sunday, Maine acknowledged that Manuel and Warthen had broached the subject of a "2008 shutdown" with him. And afterward he said, "They asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, 'I want to pitch.'"
Warthen noted that Maine had been characteristically rigid about pitching, some 14 hours after Manuel had said: "I'm comfortable with anybody who wants to gut it out. But if that isn't enough for us to win, then I have to make a decision about that."
Those words came after Maine had allowed eight runs in the Mets' 8-3 loss Saturday and left the beleaguered bullpen 3 1/3 innings to cover. His start afforded three relievers to get some work they needed, but the club can't depend on relatively abbreviated starts to be so conveniently placed in its schedule.
So after the 6-4, 10-inning loss Sunday, Minaya, Manuel, Warthen and assistant general manager John Ricco met to discuss the possibilities, and Maine left the clubhouse, his season possibly over.
"We'll see how it is in a couple of days," Maine said. "They asked. I told them, but I have to do what they say."
And Manuel already had acknowledged a "very good possibility" exists that Maine will be replaced in the rotation. And if he is replaced, the manager said, "I would think it would be a complete shutdown."
Surgical removal of the spur is all but certain whenever Maine's season is complete.
"You have a young pitcher who's 27 years old, and he's trying to pitch differently than he did earlier in the year, in terms of his velocity and that type of thing," Manuel said. "But John Maine wants to pitch, he wants to gut it out, and we've been assured he can't injure himself more than he has.
"That's going to be a though thing for us ... to evaluate or to see John Maine and maybe not see what we saw earlier in terms of velocity. He wants to do this, he wants to pitch, he loves to pitch, but we really have to look at this situation."
Manuel sees Maine as a compromised pitcher, unable to execute pitches and unable to maintain velocity and one who can add to the bullpen's burden. Rest will not alleviate the problem.
"Once you are pregnant, you are pregnant, right?" Manuel said. "Once you got something. ... That's the way it was [presented] to me [by the Mets' medical staff]."
Manuel said that Maine is making the start against the Marlins on Friday "as of right now."
"But as we progress through the week, we'll watch him on the side, watch him do things, we'll have to see," he said. "We'll have to take his hands out of it."
Mets starters are no longer throwing bullpen sessions between starts. That is Warthen's practice late in the season. But Maine will have to play long toss between now and Friday. And the staff will monitor him -- his arm angle and the pain he experiences -- when he does.
The club already had planned to have Brian Stokes start against the Marlins in place of Mike Pelfrey, whose normal day to start would be Aug. 31. Pelfrey, Warthen acknowledged, would benefit in two ways: getting an extra day of rest and not facing an opponent responsible for three of his eight losses this season.
But if the determination is made that Maine shouldn't pitch, Stokes could replace him Friday and another pitcher -- Warthen favors Nelson Figueroa because of his assortment of breaking pitches -- could be summoned to start Aug. 31.
"Probably, I'll take a look at everything and then make a decision," Manuel said. "Because we want to do what's best for John Maine and what's best for the team. We are in a pennant race."
But the Mets can't know what to expect.
"If we go through last night's game, for the most part, John was OK," Manuel said. "He had one tough inning [he allowed four runs in the third]. We take that [inning] and make that something big out of it [because of the shoulder]."
Then again, the club has no idea what to expect from a replacement for Maine, be it Stokes, Figueroa or left-handed Minor League starter Jonathan Neise. And Maine, his fastball already compromised, did throw five scoreless innings Monday against the Pirates.
"If I can put up with the pain ... " Maine said. "And I think I can. It didn't work out [Saturday] night. I wasn't effective. But the two previous times, I was all right."
Maine had pitched five scoreless innings against the Nationals, too, on Aug. 13.
"Five shutout innings, I'll take those," Manuel said.
But the manager remains unsure that Maine can adjust to life with limited velocity and inability to command pitches.
What pitcher can?
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.