Shaun Marcum again fails to give Mets a chance

Mets starting pitcher Shaun Marcum enters the dugout

Mets starting pitcher Shaun Marcum enters the dugout after being taken out in the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game at Citi Field. (May 10, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

In between pitches during his poor outing against the Pirates Friday night, Mets righthander Shaun Marcum repeatedly stepped off the rubber as if to stall for time. His offerings arrived at the plate at roughly the same speed, in the mid 80s, with little life.

Various injuries sidelined Marcum in spring training, prompting him to rush through rehab to rejoin the Mets. Increasingly, though, that decision has come back to bite him, just as it did in the Mets' 7-3 loss to the Pirates. "I'm not making pitches," Marcum said. "When you don't throw 95, you leave balls up in the zone, they're going to get hit."

Marcum served as the Pirates' punching bag, yielding six runs and nine hits in just 42/3 innings. After his first four appearances as a member of the Mets, Marcum's ERA has risen to 8.59.

In his first three starts, Marcum has yet to get through the fifth. In the second inning Friday night, Marcum surrendered three runs and six hits. He also took a comebacker near his left wrist from Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, who hit the ball hard enough to knock the glove from Marcum's hand.

Trouble found him again in the fifth when Garrett Jones lined a three-run homer just over the fence in rightfield.

"He's just still in the middle of getting himself right," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

The Mets signed the 31-year-old pitcher this winter hoping he would lend stability to the starting rotation. Instead, he has undermined that idea, perhaps hastening the arrival of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

For Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, Wheeler's promotion has rested on two key ideas: the Mets' need for a starting pitcher and Wheeler's own performances at Triple-A Las Vegas. Increasingly, both factors might be converging.

Wheeler, who starts Saturday night, has turned the corner after a rough beginning to his season. Meanwhile, Marcum's continuing struggles will only increase calls for the Mets to promote Wheeler, the jewel of their farm system.

When asked if the pitcher's recent surge has accelerated his timeline for arrival, a person with knowledge of the team's thinking said, flatly, "no, not really." His arrival date likely will be sometime after the Super Two deadline in June.

Collins sidestepped the issue. "I'd like to have [Albert] Pujols too," he said. "But I don't have him."

Notes & quotes:Reliever Jeurys Familia might land on the disabled list with right biceps tendinitis. The righthander has experienced a drop in fastball velocity over his last two outings. If Familia winds up on the DL, the Mets may activate Frank Francisco. However, Familia reported improvement Friday and he expects to be ready to pitch by Sunday . . . Lefthander Jonathon Niese reported no issues with a knot in his back Friday. But his scheduled start Saturday might be wiped out by rain.

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