Notes: Maine, not Oliver, faces Bucs

Notes: Maine, not Oliver, faces Bucs

NEW YORK -- Darren Oliver reported to Shea Stadium on Monday believing he was going to be the Mets' starting pitcher, especially after the long reliever wasn't called into action Sunday night.

The Pirates seemed to think so, too, which made it more of a surprise when right-hander John Maine dressed in the Mets' clubhouse, ready to take the ball. The Mets recalled Maine from Triple-A Norfolk before Monday's game, optioning right-hander Alay Soler to Norfolk in a corresponding roster move.

"It sure doesn't [matter]," Oliver said. "I just roll with the punches. Everybody assumed I would. But things change."

Mets general manager Omar Minaya said the plan going into Sunday night's contest at Yankee Stadium was indeed to use Oliver as Monday night's starting pitcher, provided he did not pitch in the Subway Series contest against the Yankees.

To that end, Mets manager Willie Randolph held Oliver out of action in the 16-7 loss to the Yankees, even as Soler allowed eight runs for the second consecutive start. Oliver did begin warming up briefly at one point in the defeat, however.

Of more importance was just how long Oliver would have been able to go if he started Monday. The 35-year-old has been a pleasant surprise in long relief this season, compiling a 2.45 ERA in 23 appearances, but he hasn't pitched more than 4 1/3 innings in any game this year, having done so on June 24 at Toronto.

Randolph said Maine, a 25-year-old right-hander acquired from the Orioles in January's Kris Benson trade, presented a better chance of getting through five or six innings.

Randolph noted he reluctantly used left-hander Pedro Feliciano for two innings against the Yankees, and with eight games to be played this week (including a doubleheader on Saturday), conserving relievers would be at a premium.

In doing so, the manager defended the fact that a pitcher like Oliver was not used in place of Soler sooner on Sunday, leaving the Cuban right-hander in to get through a troublesome third inning.

"What I had to think about was not getting my bullpen out of whack for one game," Randolph said. "I wanted to win [Sunday's] game real bad, obviously. But when you're 11 games up and you're playing the season, you've got to think about the big picture. You're thinking about the team and the players. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice certain things for the long haul."

Maine was 3-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 10 starts for Norfolk and also made one start with the Mets on May 2, suffering a loss against the Nationals. After that game, Maine was placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right middle finger, which the Mets later revealed had limited the hurler's pitch selection.

"He's been throwing OK, throwing the ball well," Randolph said. "I don't put too much stock into that, because it's a totally different ballgame up here. But he's healthy, and there hasn't been any talk about his finger, which was a problem last time out. I'm looking forward to him coming in and giving us a good outing."

Sent down: The Mets optioned the 26-year-old Soler to Norfolk before Monday's game, but not before his sore right calf was examined by team physicians.

Soler allowed eight runs in each of his last two starts against the Red Sox and the Yankees. The right-hander said through coach and interpreter Juan Lopez that tightness in the leg he uses to push off the rubber had been a factor, affecting his command for the last two weeks.

Soler also didn't cover first base on a ground ball to first baseman Julio Franco in the third inning on Sunday, which burned the Mets when Alex Rodriguez connected for a grand slam later in the inning.

"I felt I didn't have my normal confidence in myself," Soler said. "Struggling against big-league hitters, that was tough."

Soler said he had been receiving treatment from Mets trainer Ray Ramirez on a semi-regular basis, but both Randolph and Minaya said they were unaware of any physical problems.

"I understand he had a little soreness in his calf," Randolph said. "We just want[ed] to examine it and see how it feels and where he is. I didn't have any knowledge that it bothered him or was a problem with him."

Pedro update: The confusion over Monday's starting pitcher would not have existed if Pedro Martinez's inflamed right hip had been in game form.

The Mets have not ruled out the fact that Martinez could be available to pitch on Saturday against the Marlins, and Randolph even mentioned Wednesday's game against the Pirates as a possibility. Randolph said the club would know more after Martinez throws a light side session.

"He's probably just going to miss a start like he is, and he might be able to pitch before the week is out," Randolph said. "I'm not concerned at all."

Another option would be for the Mets to place Martinez -- who is 7-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 16 starts this year -- on the disabled list retroactive to June 29, the day after Martinez made his start at Boston's Fenway Park. That would allow the Mets to rest their ace through the All-Star break.

"It all depends on what Pedro feels like," Randolph said.

Coming up: Independence Day brings a promising matchup of lefties at Shea Stadium, as Major League wins leader Tom Glavine (11-2, 3.34 ERA) takes on Pirates lefty talented Zach Duke (5-7, 4.92). First pitch for the Fourth of July matchup is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET.

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.