- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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R.A. Dickey will start in place of injured John Maine for the New York Mets in Tuesday's opener of a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. He'll be followed by Hisanori Takahashi and Mike Pelfrey in the remaining games at Citi Field.
Manager Jerry Manuel indicated he preferred Dickey over Raul Valdes all along, but needed to ensure he could get through Saturday's game without using the knuckleballer before committing to him.
Valdes still may get a start, but that could wait until Saturday in Milwaukee, in Maine's spot. The Mets are using Monday's off-day to use four starting pitchers for a turn.
In a quirky twist, Dickey will be the second consecutive knuckleballer to face the hard-hitting Phillies. Tim Wakefield tossed eight scoreless innings against the Phillies on Sunday in Boston's 8-3 win at Citizens Bank Park, and Manuel was unsure the impact of two knuckleballers facing the Phillies in a three-day stretch would have.
"I don't know," Manuel said. "I couldn't hit him anyway. I wouldn't have any idea with that."
Manuel did note Dickey throws harder than Wakefield.
"Whether that makes a lot of difference or not, I don't know," the manager added.
Dickey said he's been tutored by Wakefield in the past and he planned to call him to pick his brain again Sunday night or Monday.
"It's a small fraternity, so we're pretty tight," Dickey said.
The rookie right-hander from Japan had a 1.35 ERA in seven relief appearances before going on the disabled list April 21 with a strained left hamstring.
"It's very important for us if he can take on that position," Manuel said. "It'll be very critical in going forward that he handles that role for us. It's been somewhat troubling for us lately, that eighth inning."
Igarashi should lessen the burden on Fernando Nieve, who is tied with Pedro Feliciano for the major league lead in appearances. Nieve and Jenrry Mejia will primarily be used in the seventh inning "where they should be," according to the manager.
As for Mejia, a Mets official gave a strong indication last Monday that the rookie would be stretched out for starting duty in the minors. However, Manuel said no demotion is now in the short-term plans.
"Probably selfish on my part, but that's how I feel," Manuel said.
Manuel planned to have Mejia pitch the final three innings in Washington on Thursday after Maine exited early. But Mejia hit a wall in his second inning of work and was pulled.
Manuel said Mejia probably could not "maintain his delivery" for lengthier appearances, so he might as well work in relief at the major league level now rather than work out those deficiencies for what might have turned out to be a long minor league stint.
Acosta was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 relief outings for the Mets. He struck out 14 and walked eight in 12 innings.
Mejia is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 relief appearances.
In other news, second baseman Luis Castillo was scratched from the lineup Sunday night against the New York Yankees because of a sore left foot that's been bothering him for a while. He was replaced by Alex Cora, who hit a two-run single in a four-run second inning.
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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