PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Another rotation injury struck the Mets on Tuesday during an 11-4 loss to the Cardinals at Tradition Field, though this one does not appear to be serious.
Slated to replace Johan Santana in the Opening Day rotation, right-hander Jeremy Hefner departed in the fourth inning after Carlos Beltran struck him with a comebacker. The ball bounced once before striking Hefner on the right elbow; he left the game immediately to receive an X-ray, which was negative.
"I've been hit in the ribs and in the arm, like the fleshy part of the arm, but never in the elbow like that," said Hefner, who was officially diagnosed with a bruised elbow. "It was kind of scary at first ... but it's good now. I'm already feeling better and very optimistic."
Hefner departed with a one-run lead, having allowed a run on five hits up to that point. But the Cardinals jumped all over his replacement, Minor Leaguer Randy Fontanez, who immediately loaded the bases, walked in a run and served up Pete Kozma's grand slam. Fontanez faced seven batters in the fourth inning and did not retire any of them. After Jon Jay doubled and Matt Carpenter singled home a run, the Mets finally removed Fontanez from the game.
Jay finished 3-for-4 with two singles and a double for the Cards. Yadier Molina added a two-run homer off Chase Huchingson in the seventh.
Mets outfielder Lucas Duda drove in early runs against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright on his ground-rule double in the first inning and an RBI single in the third. Following a miserable start to the Grapefruit League season, Duda entered the game batting .316 with three home runs and five RBIs dating back to March 15.
Up next: Opening Day starter Jon Niese will make his final spring tuneup Wednesday in a 6:10 p.m. ET game against the Astros on MLB.TV. Niese, whom the Mets officially named their Opening Day starter last week, will scale back his workload to around 50 pitches to prepare for April 1. He will start opposite Astros right-hander Edgar Gonzalez at Tradition Field.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.