Notes: Lima time could come Sunday

Notes: Lima time could come Sunday

NEW YORK -- John Maine had just finished his bullpen session Friday when, clearly frustrated, the right-hander threw his cap into his locker.

The Mets announced that Maine has been suffering from soreness and inflammation on the middle finger of his pitching hand, a condition which did not allow him to throw any breaking balls in his first start for New York on Tuesday.

Suddenly, Jose Lima's time at Shea Stadium might not appear so far off. Maine said he attempted to throw curveballs in his side session on Friday, but his effectiveness is still hindered, putting his status for Sunday's scheduled start in doubt.

"I want to pitch," Maine said. "I'd like to pitch. We'll see how it feels [Saturday]."

Making his first start in place of Brian Bannister on Tuesday, Maine showed flashes of the promise that intrigued the Mets and led them to acquire him from the Baltimore Orioles last winter in the Kris Benson deal. Facing Washington, he allowed four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, surrendering a long two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano, but striking out six in the effort.

"He pitched a pretty good ballgame, so I guess he was effective enough," said manager Willie Randolph. "We're going to watch it for a couple of days."

General manager Omar Minaya said Friday that the Mets have placed Lima "on hold" in case Maine is unable to pitch. The 33-year-old was limited to just two innings in his last start for Norfolk at Columbus on Thursday, retiring all six batters he faced with two strikeouts.

Overall, Lima is 2-3 with a 5.10 ERA in six starts for the Tides. In 30 innings, the veteran has allowed 29 hits and 17 earned runs, striking out 28 and walking just three.

Though Lima is not on the Mets' 40-man roster, Randolph said it would not be a problem getting him to New York in the event he is needed.

"It's just a plane flight," Randolph said. "He could be here [Saturday] and pitch Sunday. It might be a moot point."

Getting it done: Quietly, reliever Jorge Julio appears to be recovering from a slow start with the Mets, finding his role with the team. After allowing 11 runs (eight earned) in his first four appearances with New York, spanning 3 2/3 innings, Julio has been unscored upon in seven of his last eight outings.

He slammed the door shut Thursday against the Pirates, striking out the side in the ninth, and said the early-season boos he once heard at Shea Stadium are becoming more of a distant memory.

"I think, in Venezuela, the fans were a lot tougher," Julio said. "They are so loud there; if they boo you, you really feel it every day. This is nothing for me. I'm in a really good situation here. I'm in control and I feel like I'm ready for every hitter."

Julio credits a slight adjustment made from the stretch position, plus continued work with pitching coach Rick Peterson and bullpen coach Guy Conti, for his recent success.

Randolph said he has seen Julio gaining confidence and finding a role with the team.

"I saw him as a part of our bullpen with a strong arm," Randolph said. "I didn't know exactly where he was going to fit in, but I always had confidence in his stuff. It's panning out right."

As it stands, Julio has been pitching in lower-pressure game situations with significant run differences, though additional opportunities could arise with continued success. Randolph said he wouldn't feel pressure to challenge Julio with tighter game situations unless necessary, citing the strong relief work turned in by the likes of Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman.

"[Julio] is part of our staff and we're going to use him the way we should use him," Randolph said. "I've got a good feeling that before this is all over, he's going to continue to dazzle and help us.

"He may wind up being our setup guy by September," Randolph continued. "That can happen. I'm not just saying that."

Julio said that after recording the final three outs in the Mets' 6-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday, Randolph approached the former closer with an inspirational -- albeit somewhat mysterious -- message.

"He said, 'Your time is coming,'" Julio said. "I don't know what he meant by that."

Injury update: Anderson Hernandez, who has been on the disabled list since April 18 with a bulging disc in his lower back, has started working out with the Mets' extended Spring Training teams in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Bannister, who suffered a strained hamstring on April 26, is also at the Tradition Field complex and has started long-toss exercises.

Raise your voices: Mets fans have never been shy about being vocal at Shea Stadium. Now, they'll have a chance to do it in unison.

For the rest of the 2006 season, the Mets will hold a "'Meet the Mets' Sing-A-Long," taking place at various times during games and celebrating the original 1963 version of the team's theme song with a live-action and animated music video.

The first session took place before the top of the second inning Friday.

"'Meet the Mets' has been the original, often imitated, never duplicated Mets official song and anthem for more than four decades," said Dave Howard, the Mets' executive vice president of business operations. "We've had great fan response to other Mets songs throughout the years but thought that the time was right to do something new with 'Meet the Mets' as part of our expanding in-stadium entertainment programming. We simply are responding to the outpouring of love for this Mets classic."

This date in Mets history, May 6: A leadoff triple in the 11th inning by Lou Brock was the key hit in the Cardinals' game-winning rally against Tom Seaver on this date in 1968. After intentional walks to Curt Flood and Roger Maris, Orlando Cepeda drove in Brock with a single and rewarded Bob Gibson for his 11 innings of 11-strikeout, three-hit -- all singles -- pitching. Gibson's ERA dropped to 1.31. Seaver allowed one earned run in the 2-1 game in St. Louis. His ERA dropped to 1.56.

Three years later, Dwight Gooden pitched his 13th career shutout in his 72nd career start, and his second shutout in three starts, beating the Astros at Shea. Gooden had a two-run triple in the 5-0 victory, his fifth victory in five decisions. He had pitched eight shutouts in a 21-start sequence that included his final 15 starts of 1985. He would make 35 subsequent starts before his next shutout and finish his career with 24 shutouts -- and only 11 in his last 338 starts.

After Chris Sabo's home run off Randy Myers in the top of the 10th gave the Reds a 3-2 lead, Darryl Strawberry hit a two-run home run against John Franco in the bottom of the inning to beat the Reds, 4-3, at Shea on this date in 1988. Strawberry drove in all the Mets' runs. Lenny Dykstra's two-word reaction was: "Awesome Strawsome."

Two years later at Shea, Franco balked in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning against the Astros. But after Tim Teufel tied the score with a double, Kevin McReynolds hit a three-run home run against Dave Smith for a 7-4 victory in the first game of a doubleheader sweep. McReynolds hit one of four Mets home runs in the 7-6 victory in the second game.

The Mets lost in Coors Field on this date in 1997, despite amassing 20 hits. They lost, 13-12, to the Rockies, who had 14 hits.

Coming up: The Mets and Braves play the second game of their three-game weekend series on Saturday, with Victor Zambrano (1-2, 7.20 ERA) making his fifth start for New York. Right-hander Tim Hudson (2-2, 4.54 ERA) will counter for the Braves, with first pitch set for 1:10 p.m. ET.

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to reporter Marty Noble contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.