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Jeremy Hefner, suffering elbow pain, is optioned to Triple-A

Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner delivers against the Arizona

Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner delivers against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning. (Aug. 9, 2013) Credit: AP

PHOENIX - Jeremy Hefner will be examined by doctors in New York Monday after complaining of lingering pain in his right elbow.

Technically, the Mets optioned Hefner to Triple-A Las Vegas, a move of convenience because they needed to clear a roster spot for Jonathon Niese's return from the disabled list. General manager Sandy Alderson said Hefner ultimately might wind up on the disabled list.

Alderson said the Mets had considered optioning Hefner, whose performance has suffered since the All-Star break, a downturn that might be connected with an elbow condition that has worsened during the past few weeks.

"I don't think it's too serious, but I got to the point where I don't want to hurt the team, so I needed to say something," said Hefner, who is 0-2 with a 9.13 ERA in his last five starts. "Because I'm hurting the team right now.''

Hefner said he has dealt with the condition since he was struck on the elbow by Carlos Beltran's comebacker late in spring training. Until recently, he said the pain in his elbow had been "fairly manageable," but lately it has affected his endurance during starts.

After throwing 70 to 80 pitches, Hefner said he has been "completely out of gas."

Hefner's absence has forced the Mets to scrap their six-man rotation, which had been put in place to help Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler stay below their innings ceilings for the season.

But Alderson said that with the remaining days off on the schedule, Harvey and Wheeler can avoid a season-ending shutdown even in a five-man alignment, provided the Mets find a suitable spot starter.

Ideally, Alderson said the spot starter would be a healthy Hefner, given that prospects such as Rafael Montero will be bumping against innings limits of their own.

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