PHOENIX -- Rather than demote an outfielder to clear roster space for Jon Niese to come off the disabled list, the Mets on Sunday optioned right-hander Jeremy Hefner to Triple-A Las Vegas. Hefner will be examined in New York next week for a possible elbow injury, which could land him on the DL.
Hefner said he has been experiencing right elbow pain all season, but that it has worsened in recent weeks. After posting a 1.76 ERA in his final eight starts before the All-Star break, Hefner has since gone 0-2 with a 9.13 ERA in five starts.
"I'm hurting the team right now," Hefner said. "I don't need to try to be a hero."
Optioning Hefner means the Mets will no longer proceed as planned with a six-man rotation, which could affect young starters Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets had hoped to use a six-man rotation long enough to keep Harvey and Wheeler on the field through September, despite innings limits for both of them.
Instead, the Mets will look to use several upcoming off-days to their advantage in limiting Harvey and Wheeler. Hefner, meanwhile, could be back as soon as September depending on the results of his examination.
"Obviously this isn't fun," he said. "I've never been on the DL in the Minor Leagues or anything, I never had arm problems. So this is all new to me."
As recently as Saturday, Mets manager Terry Collins indicated that the team would option an outfielder to Triple-A to make room for Niese, who returned from the DL to start Sunday's series finale against the D-backs. But rather than proceed with a short bench for the immediate future, the Mets will go with a five-man rotation.
The results of Hefner's examination will determine how soon he can reinsert himself into those plans.
"He's been a little 'ouchy' over the last 10 days, couple of weeks," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "I'd rather not get too specific until the doctors have taken a look."
Tejada struggling to get on base at Triple-A
PHOENIX -- Mets manager Terry Collins is as cognizant of the numbers as anyone. Since returning to the Minor Leagues about a month ago, shortstop Ruben Tejada has struggled mightily.
The reason, Collins said, is a familiar one. At Triple-A Las Vegas, Tejada continues to hit balls in the air, rather than concentrating on line drives and grounders. And the results have been plain to see: a .314 on-base percentage in 37 games at Vegas, thanks in part to his current 1-for-25 funk.
That is a significant reason why Collins said after Saturday's game that big league shortstop Omar Quintanilla is not in any danger of losing his job, despite a 2-for-20 slump of his own.
"He's had a bad week, I know that," Collins said of Tejada. "There's something going on, and I don't know what it is."
No matter what happens over the next few weeks at Vegas, Tejada -- barring injury -- will be back when rosters expand in September, likely taking some playing time away from Quintanilla. But he is a long way from re-establishing himself as the clear starter in Flushing, which he was as recently as May.
"This guy was such a good on-base guy, and that's what his job should be," Collins said. "That's what he should focus on, is getting on base and going back and being a singles and doubles guy, and drawing bases on balls and grinding out those at-bats, which he is absolutely one of the best I've been around at -- especially at his age.
"Had he gone down there and tore it up like we kind of thought he might, he'd have been back. But he's struggling."
Patient approach paying off for surging Davis
PHOENIX -- Thirty-four times in August, Ike Davis has stepped to the plate. Twenty-four times in August, he has wound up on the bases.
It has been an almost surreal regression to the mean for Davis, who slumped so poorly in the first half that his on-base percentage sat at .242 on June 9 -- the day the Mets demoted him to the Minors.
Since his return, Davis has posted a .482 on-base percentage in 30 games, and a .538 mark since the All-Star break. Though he has only one home run over that span, Davis has upped his season average to .205 and his on-base percentage to .325.
"I'm just trying to see the ball as long as I can," Davis said, referencing his three walks Sunday in a 9-5 win over the D-backs. "If it's not in the zone, I'm just taking it."
Manager Terry Collins admitted after the game that a few weeks ago, Davis might not have batted against a left-handed reliever in the seventh inning. On Sunday, Davis did, drawing the last of his three free passes.
"He's much improved," Collins said. "Early in the year, he was swinging at everything, and now he's waiting to get something he can handle. He's drawing the bases on balls. He's taking them. And I'll tell you what, that's how you bring your average up. You keep getting on and make the pitcher work ... and you look up at the end of the year and you've put together some decent numbers."