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For Mets' Hernandez arthritis is pain in the neck

February 23, 2007

Times Herald-Record By Dave Buscema

Port St. Lucie, Fla. — You don't often hear of a major-league pitcher being diagnosed with arthritis, much less having the club recognize such a diagnosis as good news.

Then again, most clubs don't feature a roster filled with players who are closer to qualifying for senior citizen discounts than having their IDs checked by a bar's bouncer.

So it was that the Mets breathed a sigh of relief as they announced yesterday that righty Orlando Hernandez's sore neck was a case of arthritis.

He had received a cortisone shot after flying to New York to have the stiff neck examined, a spokesperson said, and would rejoin the team today. That quelled any concern that arose when El Duque left camp yesterday morning for the exam. But, as fellow elder statesman Tom Glavine acknowledged even before the arthritis diagnosis, Duque's flare-up would not ease any lingering worries about the overall age of the Mets' roster.

"It's not gonna do anything to make that go away," Glavine said.

The Mets were just happy Hernandez wouldn't be going anywhere for an extended period and that their lack of fretting had been validated. Early yesterday morning general manager Omar Minaya said he was "not concerned at all" and that the check-up was just "preventative."

While Hernandez had complained of some neck soreness last season, Minaya said he never missed time because of it. When it cropped up again on Tuesday, Duque reported it and the Mets decided to act cautiously.

Paul Lo Duca also received a cortisone shot to combat tendinitis, but manager Willie Randolph said the catcher had received the shot for the past "five or six years" and performed without incident after doing so.

While Glavine acknowledged the fears that had been further provoked for the elder members of the Mets on Thursday, he tried to provide at least some consolation.

"I'm not any more injury-prone than I was four years ago," he said.

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