Jeremy Hefner waited 26 years for his first major-league start. Sadly, the good part lasted a total of 26 minutes, which is how long it took before a passing rainstorm temporarily halted Thursday night's game against the Padres at Citi Field.
Hefner pitched two scoreless innings, but as he prepared for a third, a steady rain turned into a monsoon, and the umpires called for the tarp before the infield wound up submerged.
The rain delay lasted 68 minutes, a period usually long enough to prevent a starting pitcher from returning. But the Mets, with few options, sent Hefner back to the mound, which may have contributed to his demise in the Mets' 11-5 loss.
"He hadn't thrown very many pitches and he kept himself active during the break,'' Terry Collins said. "He said he was fine, so we brought him back out. I think he lost the edge a little bit."
Edge in his location or edge mentally? "Perhaps both,'' Collins said. "But location for sure."
Said Hefner, "I felt like I was loose. I felt like I was ready to go. I just didn't execute."
David Wright went 3-for-5, falling a triple short of the cycle, to finish the night at .405. His two-run homer in the sixth pulled the Mets to within 6-3. But Wright couldn't do it alone, even against the National League's worst offensive team, which hammered Mets pitching for season highs in hits (16) and runs. The Padres had failed to total 10 runs in each of their previous three series.
"It's not an excuse, but that rain delay took the momentum that we had and kind of turned it against us a little bit,'' Wright said. "It felt like we were playing well for the first couple innings and Hefner was throwing the ball well. Then all of a sudden we stood around for an hour and they just came out swinging. It snowballed quickly."
The six runs off Hefner after the delay -- to go along with eight hits -- were one short of the club record for a pitcher making his first major-league start. Manny Acosta allowed five hits and three runs to drive up his ERA to 10.97.
The Padres entered the game near the bottom of the NL in a number of offensive categories, including last in slugging percentage (.328) and 15th in batting average (.220), on-base percentage (.301) and runs scored (139).
Hefner threw only 17 pitches before the game was stopped, but after the break, he needed 29 just to make it through the third inning. Five of the first six Padres reached base, with four doubles, in the four-run third.
San Diego scored twice in the fourth on Will Venable's RBI double and Cameron Maybin's RBI single. Only then did Collins retrieve Hefner, but with the tattered state of the Mets' pitching staff, he's likely to get another shot next week.
Are the Mets running out of options and healthy bodies? "Absolutely. No question,'' Collins said. "We are certainly aware of what we've got, what we're looking at. What the roster situations are, and the roster issues. We're running out of bodies."
The chain of events that led to Hefner's starting debut began with Mike Pelfrey landing on the disabled list on April 24 with an elbow injury that required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Then Miguel Batista was forced to leave the April 19 game in Toronto because of a lower back strain that also put him on the DL.
Enter Hefner, who was rushed to the Rogers Centre from Buffalo that same morning to fortify an overworked bullpen. Little did he know that he would be called on a few hours later to bail out Batista. He responded with five scoreless innings.
"What I like about him is that old cliché: He works fast, throws strikes andchanges speeds," Collins said before the game. "That's a pretty good combination."
In all likelihood, Hefner is only a space-holder for Chris Young, if he sticks around that long. Young is scheduled to make his third rehab start for Class A St. Lucie Friday but the Mets don't expect him to be ready for the majors before early June, and that's the best-case scenario.
Young, who is only a year removed from surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule, has a 2.53 ERA with six strikeouts and two walks in 102/3 innings. The true test, however, will come when he attempts to pitch every fifth day, something he has not yet done with consistency.
If Hefner falters, the Mets can turn back to Batista, who expects to be recovered by the end of this DL stint, which is up June 4.
With a 4.31 ERA for Buffalo, Matt Harvey apparently isn't quite ready for the jump, so Chris Schwinden is next on the depth chart.