On-Base Perception

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Shaun Marcum misses simulated game with pain in neck

Mets' Shaun Marcum delivers a pitch during a

Mets' Shaun Marcum delivers a pitch during a spring training workout at Tradition Field. (Feb. 15, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

Shaun Marcum's latest injury setback may force the Mets to deploy their Plan C.

Marcum felt pain in his neck while warming up for a simulated game in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday, the club announced, which forced him to abandon the throwing session.

The club said Marcum's status will be reassessed on Wednesday, though it appears unlikely that the veteran righthander will be ready in time for his first scheduled start with the Mets against the Marlins on Sunday.

Marcum, 31, began the season on the 15-day disabled list with what the club is calling right biceps tendinitis. However, he has not pitched since the middle of March, first with a shoulder ailment and then later neck discomfort which he felt during a bullpen session.

The injury-plagued Marcum played down his shoulder issue, even though it required a cortisone injection, and did the same regarding his neck issue. Nevertheless, the veteran righthander hasn't taken any meaningful steps toward a comeback since his shoulder woes first cropped up. Issues arose even after the Mets backed off Marcum's throwing schedule, allowing him to progress on a slower pace than other pitchers in camp.

Considering Marcum's long absence, the Mets will likely be forced to lean on lefthander Aaron Laffey, who manager Terry Collins said is the team's first choice for a rotation replacement.

At the beginning of camp, Laffey hadn't been considered as an alternative. Aside from their starting five, righthanders Jeremy Hefner and Jenrry Mejia appeared next on the Mets' rotation depth chart.

But Hefner is already in the rotation to replace Johan Santana, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Tuesday, and Mejia will be sidelined for another five weeks with right elbow inflammation. The Mets have ruled out calling up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who will begin the season in Triple-A Las Vegas.

That leaves the 27-year-old Laffey to take Marcum's spot. The lefthander allowed four runs in six appearances, though he had been cut from big league camp.

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