Ruben Tejada during spring training practice at Port St. Lucie...

Ruben Tejada during spring training practice at Port St. Lucie on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Considering what hangs in the balance, Ruben Tejada knew better than to take a risk. So when the Mets shortstop felt tightness in his left hamstring, he alerted trainers immediately.

"That's why I said something, because I don't want to miss two or three weeks if I pulled something," said Tejada, who is aware that an extended absence might cost him his starting job.

Tejada missed Sunday's 7-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Cardinals, though he doesn't expect to be sidelined for too long. He is not scheduled for any additional tests, and manager Terry Collins hopes he's ready to play Tuesday.

Roster hopeful Anthony Seratelli started in place of Tejada, who still must prove he can hold down the job at shortstop, even after spending two months at a Michigan camp improving his conditioning during the offseason.

Though Tejada insisted he could have played, Collins said he held out the shortstop, who missed time last season with a quadriceps injury.

Said Collins, "If I ran him out there with the knowledge that he had a tight hamstring and he blew it out, it's just inexcusable this time of year."

With top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard starting Monday against the Braves, Omar Quintanilla will start at shortstop and he will be backed up by Wilmer Flores.

Taking the fifth

In his first Grapefruit League appearance, fifth-starter candidate Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed one run in two innings against the Cardinals.

"All my pitches are good at this point in the year except for my slider," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "I think that needs a little more work."

Collins said Matsuzaka and John Lannan "would probably be the two leading guys right now" for the final open spot in the starting rotation.