NEW YORK -- Collin McHugh's parting gift was a handshake from Johan Santana, as the two passed each other in the Citi Field dugout on Friday afternoon. Santana was heading out to the field to stretch. McHugh was heading back to the Minors.
Despite McHugh's dominant big league debut on Thursday, the Mets optioned him to Triple-A Buffalo a day later to make room for Jeremy Hefner, who is coming off paternity leave.
Such can be the injustice of baseball, manager Terry Collins explained.
"As I explained to him, this has happened many times before -- other places, not just today," Collins said, a day after McHugh struck out nine over seven scoreless innings. "There's no sense in having him sit here when we would have had to send somebody out to leave him here. I just said, 'Go out. Get a start in. And then you'll be back and fit right back in the rotation.'"
Collins' justification is that McHugh would not have pitched again until Aug. 30 anyway, and he will be eligible to return to the Mets on Sept. 3. So rather than have him sit idle for a week in the club's six-man rotation, the Mets sent McHugh to Buffalo for what should be one last Minor League start. Then he will slot back into the big league rotation in September.
In the interim, the Mets will revert to a five-man starting staff for the remainder of August. With an off-day Monday, all Mets starters will receive an extra day of rest regardless, accomplishing what the team hoped to out of its six-man rotation.
That starting staff could grow crowded when rosters expand in September, with the Mets also hoping to give Jenrry Mejia a few looks down the stretch. But Matt Harvey is on a strict innings limit and Chris Young could benefit from additional rest, meaning starting assignments should be available for the taking.
As for McHugh, the rookie celebrated his successful debut with his parents, wife and siblings in New York, going to dinner and exploring the city to conclude his two-day stay.
"We had a fun night," McHugh said. "We went out and had a good dinner and saw some of the great city, and just had a really good time."