After Tuesday's bullpen session, which he finished without complaint, John Maine has one more hurdle to clear before the Mets green light him for a Sunday start in Philadelphia.

Maine, who has been on the DL since June 12 with shoulder weakness, is expected to pitch a short simulation Thursday as the final tuneup for Game 2 of the split doubleheader against the Phillies. He'll be on a pitch count, maybe in the 60-70 range, and Tobi Stoner, recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Buffalo, will back him up.

Maine said he hasn't felt this strong since spring training of 2008, and he had surgery that September to remove a lesion from his shoulder socket.

It's been a long road back since then, and Sunday would be his first start since a four-inning loss to the Nationals on June 6. Maine received three cortisone shots in an attempt to speed up the recovery process, but it wasn't until the Mets shut him down completely that the 28-year-old righthander made significant improvement.

It was the rest - along with a program implemented by trainer Chris Correnti - that strengthened Maine's shoulder for the late-season comeback. What Maine does this month could affect his status for 2010.

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FLUSHING, NY - MAY 31, 2009: Mets' John Maine pitches in the 2nd inning. New York Mets vs. Florida Marlins at Citifield. Photo by Kathy Kmonicek Photo Credit: freelance/Kathy Kmonicek

After earning $2.6 million this season, Maine is likely headed for a salary of roughly $3 million next year, so there is always the possibility the Mets could non-tender him a contract. Though it seems very unlikely they would cut him loose, Maine understands that's the reality.

"It's a business," Maine said. "If I don't get brought back, I don't get brought back. I love this city, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."


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Plum spot for Citi Field

The Mets dedicated the Plum Room, on the same field level as the two clubhouses, to the memory of longtime employee Jim Plummer, who worked for the team for 31 years and began as a bat boy for Nolan Ryan. General manger Omar Minaya and Rusty Staub were among those who spoke at the dedication, which also was attended by Jerry Manuel, David Wright, Howard Johnson and John Franco.