Notes: Heilman remains in bullpen

Notes: Heilman remains in bullpen

PHILADELPHIA -- With Aaron Heilman in the bullpen, longingly looking at the club's depleted starting rotation, the Mets announced their latest pitching staff reassignments Tuesday.

The club summoned Heath Bell from its Triple-A Norfolk affiliate and put him the bullpen, and announced it will bring veteran Jeremi Gonzalez to the big leagues on Friday to start against the Brewers, another stop-gap measure necessitated by the rash of injuries to the team's starting rotation.

Heilman offered his services -- as a starter -- to manager Willie Randolph and pitching coach Rick Peterson. But with the rotation already in upheaval because of injuries to Brian Bannister, John Maine and Victor Zambrano, the club is reluctant to destabilize the bullpen, too.

Indeed, with Gonzalez and Jose Lima in the rotation until Bannister and/or Maine returns, the Mets see the need for bullpen depth as greater now than it was before they lost three starters in 12 days. Both Gonzalez and Lima are veterans with spotty resumes and career losing records.

Gonzalez makes his return to the Major Leagues on Friday night in Milwaukee, the night before Lima makes his second Mets start. And Heilman, to his on-going dismay, will be in the bullpen those nights and in the foreseeable future.

Randolph made that clear on Tuesday, hours before the Mets began their three-game series against the Phillies.

"I like Aaron in the bullpen right now," the manager said. "That's the way it going to be right now.

"If we had nothing or if [Lima and Gonzalez] had proven they couldn't do it, then maybe we'd think about Aaron. But now now. To me, that would be drastic, and we're not where we have to do anything drastic. We'll give the guys some starts and see what happens. Who knows, maybe they'll both go 5-0."

Well, maybe 5-1. Lima was the losing pitcher against the Braves on Sunday. But you get the idea. For the Mets to consider moving Heilman to the rotation, a few more dominoes will have to fall: three from among Lima, Gonzalez, Bannister and Maine will have to fail, Jorge Julio will have regain his form of 2002 or something close to and all that will have to happen before Mike Pelfrey forces to the Mets to promote him.

Still, Heilman still seeks to escape the bullpen.

"My ultimate goal is to get back into the starting rotation," he said. "I don't think anything's been ruled out."

Heilman said he told Peterson and Randolph he felt he "was able to [pitch as a starter] if that was the decision they came to." He also acknowledged moving between the bullpen and rotation and back probably wouldn't be beneficial for him or the team. "It's what's best for the team and what can get us to the playoffs."

Furthermore: Gonzalez, 31, had pitched well enough for Norfolk. He had 1-2 record and 3.03 ERA in six starts with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, allowing 34 base runners -- three walks and one home run -- and striking out 20. He will have to be added to the 40-man roster on Friday. The club hasn't decided what they will do when the time comes. But it probably will be whatever move had been discussed before Lima was added to the 40-man roster. No one had to be removed from the roster because the injury to Zambrano was so serious, he was assigned to the 60-day disabled list and no longer counted against the 40-man roster.

To make room for Gonzalez on the 25-man roster, the Mets probably will demote Bell. That is the plan. But if a different, on-the-bubble reliever were overtaxed, come Thursday night, he probably would be demoted. The opposite happened with Bell last week. The Mets would have promoted him, not Bartolome Fortunato, on Saturday after the bullpen pitched eight innings on Friday night. But Fortunato, demoted Tuesday to accommodate Bell on the 25-man roster, was more rested then.

Bannister, assigned to the disabled list since April 27 because of strained hamstring, began to throw of a mound on Tuesday. The Mets believe he will require at least one rehab start before he can return to the big-league team. He isn't close to making that start, and the longer he goes without pitching, the greater the possibility he will need two rehab starts.

A fifth of Glavine? A fifth year of Tom Glavine pitching for the Mets is not necessarily more likely now that he has contractual option to return. But it could be more easily achieved if Glavine chooses to remain with the club. That is the most significant non-salary aspect of a third contractual revision the Mets and Glavine's agent Gregg Clifton have negotiated since the original agreement was reached in December 2002.

According to terms put in place in March last year, Glavine was due to be paid $10.5 million in 2006, but he had no option he could exercise for next season. His 2006 salary now has been reduced to $7.5 million, but he now has an option to return next season for $5.5 million. The Mets option to bring him back still exists, but if exercised, Glavine now would be paid $12 million for his fifth Mets season, $1 million more than he would have been paid for 2007 under the terms of the revision negotiated last year.

If neither Glavine nor the club exercises the available option. Glavine would receive $3 million.

"They came to me [in January]," Glavine said. "They wanted to do something, if they could, that would make it easier for them to make a move in midseason if they thought it was needed. It doesn't mean I'm definitely going to come back. But now the terms are there if I want to or if they want to.

"I'm not losing anything, and in the long run, I'm probably doing better."

If Glavine pitches 180 innings this season and exercises the option, his 2007 salary would increase by $1 million to $6.5 million; 190 innings would increase the base by $2 million and 200 innings would increase his base by $3 million. If the club exercises the option after Glavine pitches 180 innings in 2006, his 2007 salary would increase by $2 million to $14 million.

This day in Mets history -- May 10: Roger Craig lost 46 of 61 decisions with the Mets in 1962 and 1963 and was traded to the Cardinals less than month after his 5-22 1963 season. He faced his former team at Shea Stadium on this date in 1964 and -- what else? -- lost. The Met scored three runs in the eighth inning, two against Craig, and won, 4-1. Craig lost his only two career decisions against the Mets. ... Tom Seaver pitched five shutouts in his first Cy Young season, in 1969. He would have had six if not for an earned run he allowed in the seventh inning against the Astros at Shea on this date. The only run in the Mets' 3-1 victory came in an inning in which the Seaver threw a wild pitch, allowed one walk and one double and dealt with an error by Al Weis and a passed ball by Jerry Grote.

Nolan Ryan vs. Juan Marichal. The two eventual Hall of Famers opposed each other at Shea on this date in 1970. The result: Giants 11, Mets 7. Marichal pitched a complete game, though. Willie McCovey hit a two-run home run off Ryan and one of his 18 career grand slams off Tug McGraw. ... Six years removed from his Cy Young season and implementing the wisdom of recognized pitching guru George Bamberger and Bamberger's famous Staten Island Sinker, Randy Jones ran his record to 4-1 with a complete-game victory against the only other team he played for. The Mets beat the Padres, 3-2, at Shea on this date in 1982.

Coming up: The second game of the series in Citizens Bandbox in Philadelphia is set for Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tom Glavine seeks career victory No. 280. Cory Lidle starts for the Phillies.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.