March 04, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeremy Hefner (53) pitches in the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Morning Mets Notes: Jeremy Hefner Ready if Johan Santana Isn't

With all the scrutiny surrounding Johan Santana and whether or not he’ll be ready to take the mound on Opening Day against the San Diego Padres, the Mets need to have some sort of back-up plan. Sandy Alderson said if Santana starts the season on the disabled list, pitchers like Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia, and Collin McHugh would be the leading candidates to take his spot. With the versatility of Hefner, I think it would make the most sense to bring him north for the regular season, regardless of whether he’s in the rotation or the bullpen.

Hefner has been stretching his arm out and being used in different roles during his four Grapefruit League appearances, as he closed out the last game he pitched in before starting yesterday’s game against the Atlanta Braves. In talking about his projected role with the team, Hefner told Adam Rubin:

“I’m taking it kind of like last year, as an in-between guy, kind of the swing man. I’m definitely not guaranteed a spot by any means, so I’m trying to prove myself and prove versatility. I threw the last two innings of a game my last outing and now I’m starting. I’m just taking it day by day, whatever they ask me to do.”

Hefner is coming off a season in 2012 in which he was the ultimate definition of a swing-man, appearing 13 times as a reliever, and 13 times as a starter. He’s already on the 40-man roster, which will likely be a huge part of the decision at the end of the month, especially since the only other hurler with the same kind of skill set as him would be the newly signed Aaron Laffey, who is currently not on the roster. So, this spot should be Hefner’s to lose, and as long as he continues to pound the strike zone and keep the ball down, this should be an easy decision for Terry Collins and Dan Warthen.

Danny Abriano provided all the pertinent news and notes coming out of Spring Training yesterday; thankfully for Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the MRI on his left knee came back with positive news, as there is no ligament damage. He’ll be taking anti-inflammatories for his bruised knee, and could be out of the lineup for about a week. Zack Wheeler is still expected to throw a couple bullpens before taking the mound during a game again, which the Mets are hoping is sometime this weekend or close to that. Johan Santana was long tossing yesterday, and is expected to get on the mound again tomorrow. Collins told his southpaw to take it easy, despite all the criticism.

The Mets fell to 2-4 on the spring with their 4-2 loss yesterday against the Braves. Hefner looked good in his start, giving up a run in three innings pitched, and Bobby Parnell once again threw a scoreless ninth. Marlon Byrd continues to make his case for making the team, driving in both of New York’s runs. Get your Rising Apple recap right here. Their next game isn’t until Wednesday when they take on Venezuela, but Shaun Marcum, LaTroy Hawkins, and Pedro Feliciano are expected to pitch in a “B” game today.

On Rising Apple yesterday, Will DeBoer continued his Glory Days series, as he put the spotlight on Doug Flynn, talking about his best day as a Met, which took us all the way back to June 12th, 1979. Ellie Silfin put in her two cents about the Johan Santana situation and why it doesn’t really matter which pitcher takes the mound on Opening Day. Danny Abriano wrote a wonderful article talking about why Mets fans need perseverance, and how we didn’t just become Mets fans, but are born into it.

Also, here’s the one of the only times you’ll see David Wright and Jimmy Rollins sharing a laugh together, courtesy of Adam Rubin.

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Tags: Jeremy Hefner Johan Santana Kirk Nieuwenhuis New York Mets

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