El Duque throws on flat ground after having protective boot removed
NEW YORK -- Mets pitcher Orlando Hernandez threw on flat ground Monday after the boot protecting his sore right foot was removed.
Hernandez hasn't pitched since he allowed six hits and a season-high eight runs over three-plus innings in a 13-5 loss to Atlanta on Sept. 11. He has worked just six-plus innings since Aug. 26.
Hernandez said he threw easy and felt good. He plans to throw a bullpen session Tuesday if the foot responds well, but refused to speculate beyond that.
"I'm waiting for tomorrow. That's it," he said.
New York's magic number for clinching a second straight NL East title remained at five after a 13-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday night. Its division lead dropped to two games over idle Philadelphia.
The Mets hope to get El Duque back on the mound during their season-ending, seven-game homestand to help determine what he might be able to do in October.
"You want to go into the end of the season having a better feel for everyone and where everybody fits in," manager Willie Randolph said before the Mets faced Washington in the opener of a three-game series.
Hernandez, a terrific postseason pitcher, is 9-5 with a 3.75 ERA this season. He missed the playoffs last year with a torn right calf muscle.
Also for the Mets, All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran has tendinitis in both knees but he went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly in the loss to Washington. He left Sunday's 7-6, 11-inning victory over Florida in the seventh inning.
Beltran could get some rest if New York clinches the division title early in the homestand.
"That'd be great if it happens," he said. "It'd be great but right now we're not in that position. We've got to go out and win ballgames."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press