Johan Santana is likely out for the entire season, but the New York Mets are off to a strong start thanks to impressive performances from the rotation.
A series with the punchless Miami Marlins may keep that going.Jeremy Hefner gets his turn in place of Santana as he tries to help the Mets continue their home success against the winless Marlins in the opener of this three-game set Friday night.Santana, who tossed the Mets' first no-hitter last year, underwent shoulder surgery for the second time in 31 months earlier this week.Despite potentially losing their ace for a full season for the second time in three years, the Mets (2-1) were terrific on the mound while opening 2013 by taking two of three from San Diego. The staff compiled a 2.00 ERA, with the rotation yielding three runs and eight hits with 18 strikeouts in 20 innings.Dillon Gee capped the series by allowing one run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings on Thursday, but was saddled with a 2-1 loss."He pitched well enough to win. We just weren't good enough to come through for him," said catcher John Buck, who is 6 for 12 with two homers and five RBIs after spending last season hitting .192 with Miami.Hefner's place in the rotation may be a direct result of Santana's absence, and the right-hander went 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 26 games -- 13 starts -- as a rookie last season. However, he showed promise while winning his last two starts, yielding two runs and striking out 14 in 14 1/3 innings. That included a 4-2 victory at Miami (0-3) in the season finale Oct. 3.Hefner is 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in three games -- two starts -- versus the Marlins.He may get a chance to improve on those numbers since Miami totaled one run and hit .167 while being swept at Washington. Justin Ruggiano accounted for that lone run with a homer in the second inning of Thursday's 6-1 loss."It's three games. I don't think anyone here is really panicking," said Ruggiano, who is 2 for 8 so far, but is 6 for 14 in four games at Citi Field.Miami's offensive shortcomings, however, aren't new. The team batted a franchise-low .244 last year, and scored 3.8 runs per game for their fewest since managing 3.6 in 1993, its expansion year.On the mound, the Marlins, losers of nine of their last 11 at Citi Field, are slated to give Alex Sanabia his first start since Sept, 24, 2011. The right-hander went 6-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 18 starts in the minors last year, and allowed four runs in seven innings over five games -- two starts -- in spring training."It's been a while since I've been here," Sanabia told MLB.com. "A year and a half. Especially with all the injuries that I've been through. First it was a groin. Then it was an oblique. After the oblique, it was the shoulder."It was just a streak of things that just happened, continuous. I came back from the oblique injury, and the day I pitched, it was the shoulder."Rookie manager Mike Redmond is dealing with an injury crisis at first, with Logan Morrison (knee), Joe Mahoney (intercostal strain) and Casey Kotchman (hamstring) on the disabled list. Greg Dobbs went 1 for 4 Thursday, starting at first for just the 38th time in his 812 games.