Maine, Mets at odds over early hook

Updated: May 21, 2010, 4:49 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

WASHINGTON -- New York Mets right-hander John Maine did not want to leave Thursday's start against the Washington Nationals after walking the leadoff batter.

And Maine angrily relayed that sentiment to Jerry Manuel in a dugout exchange after the manager pulled the right-hander five pitches into the start.

"Look, I've felt pain for two years, but I'm over that," said Maine, whose velocity hasn't returned since Sept. 30, 2008 surgery to remove a bony growth from his right shoulder socket. "I don't care about that. I'm well enough to pitch. I wanted to pitch. That's the bottom line."

[+] EnlargeJohn Maine
AP Photo/Haraz N. GhanbariMuch to his chagrin, Mets starter John Maine is a one and done against the Nationals.

Said Manuel: "We got into a little exchange about that, and I told him I was trying to protect his best interests, and that I know that he's a competitor. ... I don't want to be responsible for a young man's career."

Pitching coach Dan Warthen went a step further. Aside from protecting Maine from himself, Warthen suggested it wasn't fair to the other 24 players to have what looked like an uncompetitive Maine continue pitching.

Warthen had become alarmed as Maine readied in the bullpen and couldn't crack 80 mph. The pitching coach then watched Maine take the main mound at Nationals Park and bounce "maybe half a dozen" warm-up pitches.

"I just didn't think John had enough to compete tonight," Warthen said. "When he's throwing that way, then there's got to be something incorrect in that arm. Something's got to be feeling bad. John's a habitual liar in a lot of ways as far as his own health. He's a competitor and a warrior and he wants to go out there and pitch. But you have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn't right. The ball is not coming out of his hand correctly."

Maine is due to be examined Friday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. He even appeared angry about having to go to see a doctor, which he didn't know was the organization's intention until being informed by the media.

"I've got no position. I don't have enough clout. I don't have enough star power to say anything," Maine said about his situation with the team. "Whatever happens, happens."

Said Warthen: "He's angry. Certainly."

Maine's velocity topped out at 85 mph during the five-pitch walk to Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan.

While winning 15 games in '07, Maine fired 94-95 mph fastballs. But scar tissue from the surgery irritated a nerve last season, and Maine mustered only 15 major league starts in '09. This year, he's struggled to touch 90 mph with his fastball -- he's mostly resided in the upper-80s -- and the focus has returned to the shoulder.

"I don't care if it's 95. I don't care if its 75 mph," Maine said. "I just want to go out there and pitch."

John [Maine]'s a habitual liar in a lot of ways as far as his own health. He's a competitor and a warrior and he wants to go out there and pitch. But you have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn't right.

-- Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen

The Mets already had left-hander Raul Valdes preparing in the bullpen before Maine threw a pitch in the game. And given the Mets' emphasis on treating injuries conservatively this year, it's curious the Mets even allowed Maine to face one batter. Team officials posted "Prevention & Recovery" signs all over their Citi Field clubhouse in response to a spate of injuries in recent seasons, which were partly attributable to rushing players back from injuries.

"I gave him the benefit of the doubt," Warthen said.

After the leadoff walk to Morgan, manager Manuel, Warthen and trainer Ray Ramirez visited Maine on the mound and he was removed, with Valdes entering. Maine indicated he was annoyed he didn't have a chance to make a case to remain in the game.

"I think that's what I'm most upset about," he said. "... I would like an explanation. Me throwing 85 mph I don't think is a good explanation to be taken out. I was asked in the bullpen if Valdes should get up and throw, and I said no. I said, 'I'm out here to pitch, and that's what I want to do.' I said, 'Regardless of what happens, it could be 10 runs in an inning or I could go out there and throw seven innings, I want to pitch.' That's what I want to do. That's my goal every single time. I said, 'I want to pitch.' The next thing I know, Valdes is warming up and I'm coming out. I don't understand."

If Maine is shelved, three-fifths of the rotation will have been disrupted since the start of what became a 2-6, three-city road trip.

Left-hander Jon Niese landed on the disabled list after suffering a right hamstring strain Sunday, after ineffective Oliver Perez was reassigned to the bullpen also in Miami. Those moves resulted in knuckleballer R.A. Dickey getting promoted from Triple-A Buffalo for Wednesday's start against the Nationals. The Mets plan to use Japanese left-hander Hisanori Takahashi against the Yankees on Friday at Citi Field.

Because Monday is a team off-day, the Mets can buy some time in sorting out the rotation. They are able to use a four-man staff the next turn through the rotation.

Valdes tossed 80 pitches over five-plus solid innings in relief of Maine and is one consideration to get future starts. Manuel also acknowledged beginning to stretch out 20-year-old rookie Jenrry Mejia for starting work. Mejia tossed 38 pitches Thursday before running into trouble and getting pulled in the eighth inning of the 10-7 win against the Nationals. Manuel added that Perez, who is in the second season of a three-year, $36 million deal, is not a consideration to return to starting until he gets his troubles sorted out in the bullpen.

Niese is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on June 1.

Maine became the second pitcher in franchise history to be removed after facing one batter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other: Craig Swan on April 26, 1981. After Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines reached base at Olympic Stadium in Game 2 of a doubleheader, catcher Ron Hodges hit Swan in the shoulder trying to throw out Raines attempting to steal, forcing the pitcher from the game.

As for the confrontation, Manuel recalled a similar encounter earlier in his Mets managerial stint with Maine in Florida over removing the right-hander as a precaution.

"I'm sure he doesn't have any confidence with me," Maine said. "Whatever."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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