Mets' Shaun Marcum delivers a pitch during a spring training...

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

Shaun Marcum's long awaited Mets debut may come in less than a week. Assuming no setbacks, the Mets have the veteran righthander slated to return on Saturday, which is the next time the team needs a fifth starter in the rotation.

Lefthander Aaron Laffey would have been the most likely alternative to make the start on Saturday. However, Laffey was designated for assignment to make room for lefty Robert Carson, who was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to bolster the Mets' overworked bullpen. Carson went 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in eight appearances.

The move is yet another indication that the Mets feel confident about Marcum's progress.

"We don't know how many days it's going to be, but we're hoping within the week when we need a fifth starter, we're hoping Shaun Marcum's going to be ready," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "So, we just want to bring up another reliever for the time being and Robert's been throwing the ball very well down there."

Marcum, 31, has been sidelined since the middle of March with a variety of maladies, ranging from shoulder problems to a sore neck. But Marcum is scheduled to throw 70 to 75 pitches on Monday, which would put him in line to throw about 90 pitches in his season debut.

The back end of the rotation has struggled and the Mets can use Marcum's help -- even if his pitch count is capped in his early starts.

Said Collins: "If he's ready, I think he'll give us what we want, and that is a guy to come in and eat up some innings for us."

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