Terry Collins believes Jeremy Hefner will return this season

Jeremy Hefner sits in the dugout after he

Jeremy Hefner sits in the dugout after he was removed in the fifth inning of a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. (July 24, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

LOS ANGELES -- Jeremy Hefner landed on the disabled list Wednesday after doctors discovered a partial tear of a ligament in his right elbow. The righthander will rest and then rehab the injury, which a team spokesman called a "chronic condition" that worsened over time.

Manager Terry Collins said Hefner has a "good possibility" of returning before the end of the season. The Mets are counting on the righthander to make occasional spot starts as part of an effort to avoid shutting down Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler as they approach their innings limits.

Hefner (4-8, 4.34 ERA) has dealt with the issue most of the season. But he said he felt more pain in recent weeks, which coincided with a downturn in his performance.

"We just saw such a big difference there had to be something that we tried to address," Collins said.

Initially, the Mets optioned Hefner to Triple-A Las Vegas to clear a roster spot for Jonathon Niese.

On the mend

Wilmer Flores is "marginally better" after a day of rest, Collins said, though Flores remains day-to-day with a sprained right ankle.

Said Collins: "I don't think it's anything that's going to be ultimately serious that he's going to miss an extended period of time unless we run him back out there early and he twists it again."

Flores had a pinch-hit single in the eighth, then was removed for a pinch runner.

Flores is hitting .259 with a homer and nine RBIs since his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas on Aug. 6. Extra bases

Andre Brown started in leftfield Wednesday night in place of Eric Young Jr., who was given a day off. Young has slumped in August, hitting just .189 (10-for-53) . . . Ike Davis started against lefthander Chris Capuano.

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