MIAMI - The Mets expect Jonathon Niese to make his next scheduled start, an encouraging sign considering how his replacement fared in Saturday's 8-1 loss to the Marlins.
"Fastball command is the most important thing," Collin McHugh said. "It just wasn't there like I wanted it to [be] today."
Pitching in the majors for the first time since May 21, McHugh trailed 4-0 before giving up a single to start the fifth inning and leaving the game. He allowed six hits and three walks.
McHugh insisted that his long layoff had nothing to do with his struggles, but catcher John Buck said he seemed "a little erratic where he's normally a control guy with all his pitches."
McHugh is expected to return to the bullpen when Niese returns from a bout with shoulder tendinitis. According to manager Terry Collins, Niese has reported improvement in his shoulder, putting him on track to slide back into the rotation in time for his next turn.
Said Collins: "I have no reason to think he won't."
The Mets expect to have a better idea on Niese's readiness Tuesday, when he's scheduled to throw in the bullpen. But if he's not ready, McHugh likely will step in again.
Though top prospect Zack Wheeler is due for a promotion soon, a person familiar with the team's thinking said the righthander won't be called up for "a couple more starts."
Wheeler, scheduled to start for Triple-A Las Vegas Saturday night, hasn't been sharp since his recent shoulder scare. Also, by delaying Wheeler's promotion until mid-June, the Mets increase their chances of keeping the 23-year-old from earning an extra year of arbitration.
Byrdak back on mound
Lefthanded reliever Tim Byrdak, who is attempting to come back from major shoulder surgery, pitched one inning in an extended spring training game. It was his first game action since going under the knife.
Byrdak remains on track for a return sometime in July, according to Collins. The 39-year-old veteran held lefthanded hitters to a .156 average in 56 appearances last season.