MILWAUKEE - Shaun Marcum described the sensation as "the numbness, the tingling and cold hand."
And as he pitches deeper into his starts, the feeling in his right hand becomes more and more difficult to shake. Which is why in the sixth inning of the Mets' 7-6 loss to the Brewers Saturday night, manager Terry Collins sensed trouble when he noticed a curveball slip out of Marcum's hand.
"It was kind of an indication maybe that he was starting to lose a little touch," said Collins, who visited the mound just in case. "He said it just slipped out of his hand."
But after the game, the 31-year-old Marcum admitted that he again had pitched through the condition, insisting to Collins that he felt good enough to press on, even though by his final inning, his fastball velocity registered only 84 mph.
"I've never really experienced this before," said Marcum (1-10), who allowed six runs, five earned, and a season-high 11 hits in five innings. "It's just something that we'll try to figure out, whether I've got to make an arm slot adjustment or something where I don't get it. We'll figure it out and go from there."
Last week, Marcum dealt with an upper back ailment that was serious enough for the Mets to send him for an MRI exam. The test came back clean and Marcum started as scheduled.
After the Mets cut the Brewers' lead to 5-4 in the sixth, Collins left Marcum in the game to hit with two outs. But when Logan Schafer led off the sixth with a single, Collins immediately called for reliever LaTroy Hawkins to warm up in the bullpen. As Collins visited the mound, head trainer Ray Ramirez made it halfway to the mound before turning around.
Marcum departed one batter later after second baseman Daniel Murphy misplayed a throw to first base on Yovani Gallardo's sacrifice bunt. Schafer scored from first base on Murphy's error and Marcum was gone after only 83 pitches.
The Mets signed the former Brewer in hopes of adding a veteran presence to the starting rotation. Instead, various injuries have wrecked the start of Marcum's season, and he hasn't been able to recover.
Recently promoted righthander Carlos Torres appears most likely to slide into the rotation if the Mets decide to make a change. The 30-year-old is 0-1 in eight relief appearances while posting an ERA of 0.66.
Marcum (5.29 ERA) had allowed only three runs in his previous two starts, including a June 26 start against the White Sox in which he collected his only win of the season while throwing eight shutout innings.
Said Collins: "He's had some pretty good games, and recently." But just as quickly as Marcum appeared to regain some footing, he lost it again.
Before the game, Marcum requested that catcher John Buck replace Anthony Recker in the starting lineup.
The switch proved beneficial, though not in the way Marcum had hoped. Buck knocked in three runs and blasted a solo home run, but behind the plate against the Brewers, he could do nothing to spare Marcum from yet another stinker. The Mets rallied from a 5-0 deficit and even pulled within one in the ninth when Marlon Byrd hit a two-out homer off Francisco Rodriguez. But the former Mets closer recovered for his eighth save.