El Duque OK after leaving game early

El Duque OK after leaving game early

JUPITER, Fla. -- A misstep perhaps, and then a gasp -- and it was October again. When Orlando Hernandez stood at first base in the fifth inning Sunday, time stood next to him and it stood still. "It can't be" was one thought. "Not again" was another.

El Duque had bunted and run toward first. His right hamstring wasn't enjoying the trip; it grabbed. "Cramps for gramps," someone said. But nothing more than cramps. No repeat of the torn calf muscle that denied him participation in the Mets' postseason in 2006. But of course it came to mind. But the cause was cramps, which subsided quickly.

But a 37-to-41-year-old pitcher never is afflicted with "just" anything. El Duque was removed from the game, having pitched four innings and run 90 feet.

"I looked and I said to myself, 'I hope he's OK,'" general manager Omar Minaya said.

Later, Hernandez said he was.

"My arm is more important than my hamstring, and both felt all right," he said.

Hernandez had made his second spring start, allowing three hits, two walks and two runs. He was effective enough, having thrown 61 pitches. The right-hander, who has two Florida starts remaining, said he felt fine and felt better pitching than he had the first time out on March 8.

Progress comes in different shapes and sizes.

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