WASHINGTON - In just the last three days, Michael Cuddyer has endured trouble getting off the team plane, trouble running from first base to third, and trouble feeling any difference after taking new anti-inflammatory medication for his banged-up left knee.

After spending Wednesday afternoon as a well-compensated spectator during a 4-3 loss to the Nationals, the Mets outfielder admitted (once again) that little has changed.

"I don't know if I'm confident enough to play a full nine innings yet," said Cuddyer, who is hitting .250 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs.

Perhaps that admission will be enough to send Cuddyer to the disabled list, a concession that the Mets seemingly have been unwilling to make for days.

They haven't budged, although Cuddyer's limited abilities essentially have left the Mets playing shorthanded virtually every game. Only a DL stint would prompt the Mets to consider promoting hyped prospect Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton.

Cuddyer left Sunday's game in St. Louis and hasn't started since. He's been mostly out of the lineup since before the All-Star break. In losing two of three games to the Nationals -- a series that the Mets acknowledged as the most important of the season thus far -- Cuddyer made only one appearance.

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He walked as a pinch hitter in a late-game cameo Tuesday night. But even then, he couldn't run from first to third on a hit, a trip he typically would make on instinct.

Cuddyer began taking the new anti-inflammatory medication before the start of the series on Monday, with the hope that it would "get rid of" or "help" the pain brought on by a bone bruise beneath his left kneecap. He called the new treatment a last-chance effort to avoid the DL.

But on Wednesday he came the closest to conceding that it hasn't made a significant difference.

Said Cuddyer: "Whatever the case is, it hasn't helped."

Playing leftfield has been out of the question for Cuddyer, and, apparently, so is manning first base. His knee can't take the pounding of retreating to the bag to catch throws.

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"You're doing 20-, 10-yard sprints, stopping and turning and all of that," Cuddyer said. "So, I don't know if that would help very much."

Manager Terry Collins tried painting Cuddyer as a rare asset, even in a diminished role as a bench bat.

"That's a pretty good name, he's legit," Collins said. "The one thing we have over there is a guy who's done it in big situations, so they better be ready for it."

Those words rang hollow one day after Collins bypassed using Cuddyer in a critical pinch-hitting spot in favor of the light-hitting Eric Campbell. Although that move worked out when Campbell hit a two-run single that put the Mets ahead, it underscored Collins' reluctance to use Cuddyer.