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Maine cleared, but Manuel cautious

Maine cleared, but Manuel cautious

ATLANTA -- All's clear for John Maine, but not necessarily for the Mets. Maine felt no pain on Sunday, one day after throwing a simulated game at Turner Field, and he remains on track to join the Mets' bullpen by midweek. But manager Jerry Manuel became the latest Met to offer a heavy dose of caution.

"I'm not in a hurry for John Maine to get back," Manuel said on Sunday morning.

Manuel's opinion stems mostly out of concern. Despite the fact that team doctors don't believe Maine can do any further harm to his right shoulder by pitching, Manuel remains fixated on the image of a bone spur grating against a muscle in Maine's right shoulder -- and rightly so. Even if Maine feels no pain -- and he doesn't -- there is always the risk that he might compensate in his mechanics in order to combat an unfamiliar feeling.

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So Manuel first wants to see Maine pitch a simulated inning on Monday, then he wants an updated opinion from the team's medical staff. At that point -- and only then -- would he consider using Maine in a relief opportunity down the stretch.

"These are the questions that I'll have for the doctor, and he'll have to convince me that still there's no risk," Manuel said.

Normally, Manuel would simply shut Maine down for the season. But he and the Mets remain understandably tantalized by the thought of what Maine could do for the struggling bullpen. With a live, mid-90s fastball when he's feeling right, Maine boasts a skill set that no one else in the bullpen -- with the possible exception of rookie Robert Parnell -- can match.

But more than that, Manuel simply feels an obligation to give Maine a chance.

"Right now I'm more concerned about John Maine," Manuel said. "Because he has this type of optimism and expectation, you don't really want to go out and squash that."

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

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