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'Good' first outing post-elbow reconstruction

NEW YORK (AP) -- Florida's A.J. Burnett had no complaints after his first mound appearance in more than 13 months. Marlins manager Jack McKeon had no misgivings either.

Despite the New York Mets' 4-1 victory Thursday night, Burnett and McKeon preferred to look at the big picture.

"I felt good," said Burnett, whose 2003 season ended that April because of elbow reconstruction surgery. "I definitely got better as I went
along. For a first time out, I felt healthy. It was a pleasure to
be out there, an honor. I haven't done it in a long time and it was
fun."

Burnett worked four innings and gave up two runs on five hits.
All of the damage against him was done in the second when
consecutive hits by Karim Garcia, Ty Wigginton and Mike Cameron
produced a pair of runs. Except for that and two singles by Cliff Floyd, Burnett was fine.

Maybe better than fine.

Mets manager Art Howe peeked at the scoreboard a couple of times
and saw it reporting 97-mph fastballs. "For the first time back,
97 mph," Howe said. "He threw the heck out of the ball. He looked
healthy to me."

Burnett threw 83 pitches in just four innings, 48 for strikes.

"He did a good job, I thought," McKeon said. "He threw too
many pitches. He was getting behind too many guys. He threw 50
pitches in two innings. You've got to expect something like that
the first time out. His adrenaline is up. Now we've got that out of
the way."

Jae Seo (3-4) worked six innings, allowing just three hits to
earn the victory, the Mets' fourth in a row. Mike Stanton threw two
scoreless innings, and Braden Looper pitched a perfect ninth for
his 11th save.

The victory moved the Mets one game over .500 at 27-26, and just
2½ games behind the first-place Marlins in the NL East.

It was the fourth straight loss for Florida since the Marlins
swept a three-game series from New York last weekend.

The game was the first for Burnett (0-1) since April 25, 2003,
against St. Louis. He had the ligament in his right elbow replaced
four days later.

Burnett made three rehab starts in the minors, throwing 11 2-3
innings and allowing five runs on 12 hits with five walks and 17
strikeouts. He paused on the mound before throwing his first pitch
against the Mets, turning his back to the plate and gazing out to
center field.

"We'll build from here," Burnett said. "I'll get more
comfortable each time out there. I was not really nervous. Overall,
I threw pretty well."

In the second inning, Garcia singled with one out and Wigginton
followed with a run-scoring triple. Cameron, whose batting average
had dipped below .200, then doubled to score Wigginton.

After Cameron stole third base, Burnett struck out Seo and got
Kaz Matsui on a fly ball to get out of the inning.

The Marlins got a run back in the fifth when Heep Seop Choi
opened with a double and came around on a pair of infield outs.
Then pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who took a perfect game into the
seventh inning against Cincinnati on Wednesday, pinch hit for
Burnett and struck out.

Florida threatened in the sixth when Mike Lowell walked with two
outs and raced to third on a single by Miguel Cabrera that Cliff
Floyd trapped in left field. Floyd had trouble retrieving the ball,
and Cabrera took second. Seo fell behind Jeff Conine, but recovered
to get him on an inning-ending fly to right.

New York added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth when Mike
Piazza walked with one out and Jason Phillips, Garcia and Wigginton
followed with hits for a 3-1 lead. Cameron then grounded into a
force play but beat the relay to first base, allowing Phillips to
score with the Mets' fourth run.

McKeon said before the game that he didn't know what to expect
from Burnett, whose last major league victory came on Aug. 18,
2002, when he threw a three-hit shutout against San Francisco.

"I have no idea what we'll get," McKeon said before the game.
"I'd like seven innings. That's what I'd like."

Instead, he got four credible ones, not unreasonable for a first
time back on a major league mound in over 13 months.

Game notes
Wigginton's triple gave him an extra base hit for an eighth
straight game, a Mets record. Steve Henderson (1977) and Tommie
Agee (1969) each had streaks of seven straight. ... The eight-game
hitting streak ties Wigginton's career high. ... Cameron robbed
Cabrera of an extra-base hit in the fourth, chasing down his drive
at the center field fence. ... Lowell walked twice on eight
straight balls from Seo.