Nieve could be making final start for Mets

Nieve could be making final start for Mets

PHILADELPHIA -- Fernando Nieve is to make his fifth start for the Mets on Saturday in the second game of their series against the Phillies. A chance exists that it could be his last. General manager Omar Minaya acknowledged as much on Friday night after the Mets' 7-2 loss to the Phillies.

Armed with a report about the Triple-A performance of Oliver Perez on Friday night, Minaya indicated that the rehabbing pitcher is likely to return to the big league rotation next week and that either Nieve or Tim Redding is likely to be moved to the bullpen.

The club hasn't decided who will be reassigned, but it was generally agreed on by Minaya and pitching coach Dan Warthen that Perez was ready to return despite a seemingly mediocre performance on Friday.

Pitching for the Mets' Buffalo affiliate against the Twins' Rochester squad, Perez threw 92 pitches in six-plus innings, but 46 of them -- half -- were balls, hardly an encouraging ratio.

Perez retired neither batter he faced in the sixth and allowed five hits, four walks and three runs.

He experienced control problems in his first rehab start as well, walking nine in 9 1/3 innings. He allowed only one run in 4 1/3 innings in his previous start, so his ERA against Triple-A hitters is 3.86, and he has allowed 17 total baserunners.

But the report the Mets received about Friday's outing, Warthen said, noted that Perez was "squeezed" by the plate umpire, particularly in the second and third innings, and that his control wasn't nearly as shaky as the ratio suggested.

"The velocity was good," Warthen said. "And when he missed, he missed close. It was a shotgun pattern."

Before the Mets engaged the Phillies on Friday night, manager Jerry Manuel said, "If Ollie has a good game tonight, we'll have a decision to make."

That decision seemed to gain no urgency, based on the raw data, but the scouting report afforded the club some reason to be encouraged.

If Perez returns to the rotation on Wednesday, he would displace Redding, who went just 2 2/3 innings against the Pirates on Thursday. Nieve's start subsequent to Saturday's would be next Friday, against the Reds.

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Fernando Nieve (3-1, 2.25 ERA)
After pitching at least six innings in each of his first three starts with the Mets, Nieve didn't complete the fourth inning in his most recent start, against the Brewers on Monday. He allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings and left with the bases loaded. Right-handed batters are hitting .361 against him, left-handed hitters merely .164. The bases-empty home run that J.J. Hardy hit off him on Monday was only the second he has allowed in 24 innings this season, but he has allowed 22 in 131 innings for his career. He has made five career appearances against the Phillies, all in relief, allowing five runs in 1 1/3 innings.

PHI: LHP Jamie Moyer (6-6, 6.05 ERA)
Moyer struggled in his first two innings against the Blue Jays on Sunday but settled down in his next three to earn the victory, the Phillies' fourth victory in his six most recent starts. He allowed four runs on five hits and two walks and struck out four in five innings against the Jays, throwing 82 pitches. With the 252nd victory of his career, he passed Hall of Famer Bob Gibson for 43rd place on the all-time list. He is winless with a loss and a 9.64 ERA in three starts this season against the Mets, who have hit five home runs in 14 innings against him. But three of the players who produced those homers -- Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Ramon Castro -- won't be in the lineup on Saturday, nor will Carlos Delgado, who has hit eight home runs in 82 career at-bats against Moyer. However, David Wright, Fernando Tatis, Gary Sheffield and Luis Castillo have a .418 batting average and eight home runs in 110 composite at-bats against Moyer.

Ryan Church had three hits on Friday night and now has 13 in his 22 most recent at-bats. Wright was hitless with two strikeouts and a double-play ground ball in four at-bats and now has five hits in 34 at-bats.

This date in Mets history -- July 4: A single with one out in the ninth inning by Leron Lee of the Padres cost Tom Seaver a no-hitter in 1972. Seaver won, 2-0. His one-hitter was one of the five he pitched with the Mets -- he pitched a no-hitter with the Reds. ... Four years later, Jerry Grote hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Tug McGraw to lift the Mets to a 4-3 victory over the Phillies. ... In 1978, Lee Mazzilli hit a grand slam and Pat Zachry pitched a two-hit shutout in the Mets' 4-0 win over the Phillies.

In 1985, the Mets beat the Braves, 16-13, in 19 innings in Atlanta in one of the signature games in franchise history. The game included two rain delays and ended at 3:55 a.m. ET. Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle in that game -- he had 11 plate appearances. The Mets seemingly had the game in hand in the 18th, but Tom Gorman surrendered a two-out, two-run homer to Rick Camp, the Braves pitcher who entered the at-bat batting .060 in his career. The Mets scored five runs in the 19th. Gorman emerged as the winner. Ron Darling finished the game -- the only time in his career he finished a game as a reliever. And, as promised, a postgame fireworks display was presented. Residents of Atlanta called police headquarters, worried that the city was being attacked.

Wally Backman drove in five runs as the first-place Mets buried the Astros in 1986. ... Fifteen years later, Glendon Rusch (seven innings), John Franco and Armando Benitez combined on a six-hitter in a 2-1 victory against the Cubs at Shea Stadium. ... The Mets scored three runs in the eighth inning to beat the Pirates, 7-6, at Shea in 2006. Xavier Nady's two-run single provided the decisive runs.

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Up next
• Sunday: Mets (Johan Santana, 9-6, 3.34) at Phillies (Joe Blanton, 4-4, 5.08), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 6-3, 4.26) vs. Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 5-5, 3.49), 7:10 p.m. ET

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