Mets' Maine heads to DL with 'shoulder weakness'

NEW YORK (AP) — Mets pitcher John Maine is heading to the disabled list with right shoulder weakness, a day after getting pulled from his start after only five pitches and getting into a dugout spat with manager Jerry Manuel.

The move was announced before the opener of a three-game series against the New York Yankees on Friday night, and only a couple hours after Maine stood in front of his locker in the Mets clubhouse and insisted that he felt fine.

Maine spent three months on the disabled list last year with a tired right shoulder.

"I feel the same right now as I did since the beginning of the season," said Maine, who will have tests on the shoulder next week. "That's what I said last night."

Maine had finished warming up Thursday night in Washington when pitching coach Dan Warthen came in from the bullpen and told Manuel that he didn't think Maine was throwing more than 80 mph. The velocity didn't improve much against leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan, who drew a walk, and Manuel and Warthen immediately went to the mound.

Raul Valdes quickly replaced Maine, and the Mets went on to win 10-7.

"It was the first batter of the game," Maine said. "The first pitch wasn't hard, but the last few were 89, which is where I've been all year. I didn't see anything different."

Television cameras caught Maine in a heated argument with Manuel in the dugout after he was removed, though both dismissed the incident even before they spoke to each other.

"I was trying to get him to understand why he was coming out, and you know, he wanted to compete, and I'm trying to protect him from what I thought could be a dangerous situation for him and the team," Manuel said. "That was basically the confrontation was about, him competing and me trying to protect him."

Said Maine: "I'm not on bad terms with anybody. I understand their position, but I hope they understand my position. I want to pitch."

Maine has struggled all season, going 1-3 with a 6.13 ERA, and hasn't made it past the sixth inning in nine starts. Part of the problem has been his command, which has forced him out of games early and taxed the Mets' bullpen.

He walked the first three Florida batters he faced on 12 pitches in his previous start.

"John Maine is a very, very, very competitive young man, very competitive," Manuel said. "We have to make decisions not only on him, but what's best for the team."

The Mets' rotation was already scrambling after Jonathon Niese went on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. The injury forced Hisanori Takahashi, one of their top relievers, into making his first major league start Friday night against the Yankees.

The team called up right-hander Elmer Dessens from Triple-A Buffalo to take Maine's place, and made roster space by transferring right-hander Kelvim Escobar to the 60-day DL.

The Mets are still without injured outfielder Carlos Beltran, and stars like Jose Reyes and David Wright have struggled at the plate. The result has been a May swoon that has dropped the club into the NL East cellar and left Manuel's job outlook uncertain.

"I look at it as 100 and however many games we have left," Manuel said. "I still have to do what's best for the team."