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STEVE DeSHAZO: Injury woes could cost Maine his job in New York
By Steve DeShazo
WASHINGTON--For a change, pitch count wasn't an issue for John Maine last night. That was the least of his problems.
Short of "steroid use" or "Rick Ankiel," the two words no pitcher wants to be associated with are "injury prone." Yet that's becoming the line on Maine, and the Stafford County native's tenure with the New York Mets gets more tenuous with each setback.
Maine left last night's game against Washington after facing just one batter for what the Mets called "precautionary reasons." Pitching coach Dan Warthen noticed Maine's mechanics didn't seem normal and that he didn't have his normal velocity while warming up in the bullpen before the game.
When he walked Nationals leadoff batter Nyjer Morgan on five pitches--none faster than 85 mph--Maine was yanked against his wishes. As Morgan trotted to first, Maine bent at the waist and put his hands on his knees. Despite Maine's protests, manager Jerry Manuel called for reliever Raul Valdes, who had been warming up just in case.
Maine trudged dejectedly to visitors' dugout--and into uncertainty. He's scheduled to visit a doctor today, when the Mets return home to face their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, in interleague play.
"I'm just so frustrated," said Maine, who insisted he isn't hurt. "When I start, I want to go out there and pitch. Even if it's 82 mph, if I get my brains beaten in, that's an excuse to take me out. I want to go out and pitch, whether it's 95 or 75 [mph]."
It was the latest issue for Maine in a critical year in his career. The team's fickle fans lit up an Internet message board with calls for the team to cut ties with the right-hander, who turned 29 two weeks ago. How soon they forget that Maine extended their 2006 and 2007 seasons with stellar pitching performances. He beat St. Louis in Game 6 of the '06 National League championship series, and struck out 14 Florida Marlins on the next-to-last day of the '07 season to keep the Mets in the playoff hunt.