Mets' Maine confident he can turn it around

New York Mets starting pitcher John Maine works New York Mets starting pitcher John Maine works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning. (April 13, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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DENVER - A frustrated and angry John Maine had a 40-minute, closed-door meeting in the manager's office with Jerry Manuel before last night's game to assert that he is "100 percent" healthy and capable of turning himself around.

Maine has a 13.50 ERA in two starts and matched a career high by allowing eight runs in three innings during Tuesday night's 11-3 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. Fed up with his early failure, Maine said he is ditching the mechanics developed during spring training and will rely heavily on his fastball in an effort to save his spot in the rotation Sunday in St. Louis.

"I went in there and I told him," Maine said. "He knows I haven't been pitching great, and the numbers haven't been there. But I don't think I've pitched as badly as what was happening, and what I wanted to tell him was that I'm fine - my shoulder's fine.

"I know the No. 1 priority is to get back and throw my fastball and that's what I'm going to do. I don't want to go out there thinking about innings or numbers or anything like that. It could be four innings my next start, it could be seven innings, I don't know. But the fact is I'm going to get back to where I was. That's what I need to do."

Manuel chose not to bounce Maine from the rotation. As the manager explained it, the decision was made partly out of loyalty, but probably also because he has few options to replace him. Maine was a 15-game winner back in 2007, and that's the type of pitcher he's trying to become again. Whether that's possible remains to be seen.

"I think because of his time here, what he has done, I think you've got to give him every benefit of the doubt that you possibly can," Manuel said, "to where you don't feel that it's affecting everybody else."

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The Mets took a chance in bringing back Maine after he went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA in only 15 starts last season. They passed on a number of middle-tier free agents during the winter - Randy Wolf, Joel PiƱeiro, Jon Garland - and find themselves stuck with question marks in Maine and Oliver Perez.

In Maine's case, he's taking drastic measures in a last-ditch attempt to recapture his past success. He spent yesterday watching video of a few years back with pitching coach Dan Warthen and vowed to undo all the work of the past six weeks. Listening to Maine, he believes such a makeover is the only way to be a winner again.

"I think that I've been throwing so much off-speed stuff that I've lost the feel for my fastball, and that's the pitch that I need," Maine said. "I need to get back to challenging guys. I'll go out there and hopefully it turns out right. I'm going to start getting some luck, balls are going to start being hit at people, it's going to be better.

"It's going to take a little bit of time. I'm frustrated right now, I'm mad right now. But I'm not at all hitting the panic button because I know what I can do. I've shown I can compete here. It's been four years and I'm going to get it back."

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In his better days, Maine featured a 95-mph fastball with a quiet delivery, and hitters remarked how it jumped out of his hand, not unlike Mariano Rivera. But Maine had a bone spur removed from his right shoulder at the end of the 2008 season, and then battled shoulder fatigue for most of last year after he tried to rush through rehab.

Maine noticed "a big difference" between then and now, but "didn't want to get into what that is." Part of it could be the change in pitching coaches. Maine had his best years under Rick Peterson, who was fired with Willie Randolph in 2008, and he was his favorite pupil.

"I'm going to scratch everything that I've been doing since the beginning of spring," Maine said. "I'm going to get back to what I was doing. It may work, it may not. But all I'm saying is that I feel fine and the law of averages in the end, it's going to be fine."

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