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Maine plays hurt for Mets during pennant drive


A wise man once told John Maine that the best thing to happen to him was Anna Benson opening her mouth. That led to the New York Mets trading her husband Kris Benson to Baltimore and sent Maine on his way to Shea.

After a quiet debut with the Mets in 2006, Maine burst on to the scene last year, winning 15 games and claiming the third spot in the rotation.

I caught up with the 27-year-old right-hander just hours after his activation off the disabled list. He threw five shutout innings against the Washington Nationals while battling lingering shoulder soreness that he will likely have to battle for the rest of the season.

Holden Kushner: How do you feel you performed coming off the DL?

John Maine: For the first time facing hitters in 15 days it went OK. On the other hand, I'm not 100 percent. I'm just going to have to go out there and get outs. That's the most important thing.

HK: Was your shoulder soreness a problem that had been lingering or did it just pop up?

JM: It's been lingering for a little bit but it wasn't until the start after Philadelphia where it really was a problem. I don't like to say much (to the trainers) I just want to go out and pitch. But finally it just bothered me too much. It lingers. Pitchers go out there all the time and pitch with bumps and bruises and we have to deal with it. I just couldn't deal with it anymore.

HK: Is there a prescription to keep you feeling good enough to go out every fifth day? More rest? Treatment?

JM: Rest isn't good. We're in the middle of a playoff race and I can't afford to take two days off here and three days off there. I'll get my treatment and exercise in and take it a little easier between starts.

HK: It says a lot about your character that you would have gone from the rotation to the bullpen had Billy Wagner's injury been more serious and he would have missed more time. Do you think it's still possible that you may end up in the bullpen?

JM: I don't know. It might be a last-case situation here. Whatever the team needs, I'll be able to do it. Our first goal here is to get to the playoffs. If that will help us, I'm more than happy to do it.

HK: Speaking of the team, you have lost some games in devastating fashion. The most recent was blowing a five-run lead late at home to a light-hitting Pirates team on Monday. But you seem to bounce back and find yourself in first place. When did this team become so resilient?

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JM: You always say it's the games we should have won but just didn't. We keep fighting because we have to. We're not going to score seven or eight runs every game. Pitching is going to have its lapses here and there. Especially with Billy missing there's not much you can do about it. You fight. He's a big key. He's the guy that holds down the ninth inning. When you don't have that guy there, it's going to be tough to win. You have to put losses like that behind you and keep going.

HK: Lots of changes here since the beginning of the season. Is this a different clubhouse now?

JM: I think so. Injuries happen so we have some new guys. For the most part, the core group is here. It's a different clubhouse now than it was two months ago. We're playing better. We're a little happier. That's why it is a little different.

HK: What's your relationship been with your new pitching coach Dan Warthen and your new manager Jerry Manuel?

JM: I like Jerry. I've been here with him for three years. I have a good relationship with him. He's fun and he's a great guy. Dan is a guy I met in spring training for the first time. He's a guy you can joke around with and you can come to with ideas. It's a give and take relationship and it's been good.

HK: On to the pennant race. Three teams and six weeks to go. Talk about the Phillies and Marlins and give me a breakdown of both clubs.

JM: They're both good teams. It all starts with our starting pitching against both of them. They can both tear the cover off the ball. Everyone knows about Philadelphia and the hitters they have, but Florida has guys that can hit the ball. They won't sneak up on anyone anymore. They're just as good as Philadelphia when it comes to putting runs up on the board. The key for our starting staff is to go out for at least six innings and minimize the damage against those guys. Our offense is good enough to outscore them and win more games.

HK: The build-up coming into the season was Phillies versus Mets. No talk of the Marlins. Were you surprised at they're hot start and the fact that they've sustained success?

JM: We knew they could hit the ball but starting pitching was the question for them. They got two guys back now that are really good pitchers in Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez. They just came back and they're fresh. They can pitch and score runs. Not surprised at all They are a good team.

HK: On a completely different plane here, I was just at the owner's meetings and the buzz was all about instant replay. From a player's standpoint, are you in favor of instant replay?

JM: I am in favor of it. You have other sports that use it. So why not? Umpires try their best but they're human and they make mistakes and you can't fault them for that. There's a lot of cameras around that catch the action so I think to use them and go to them for help is a good idea.

HK: On a lighter note, CC Sabathia wears the hat up and off to the side. Anthony Reyes irons the bill of his cap flat. You are wearing your cap over your ears. How did this start?

JM: (laughs) I think it's the new hats. I wore the same size last year. I'm not sure if my head shrunk or the hat size got bigger. I didn't mean for this to happen. I'm caught in the middle. I'd rather go out there with a bigger hat than a smaller one.