NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Mets are running out of healthy pitchers at the worst possible time.

Already missing Pedro Martinez, the NL East champions suddenly might have to replace scheduled starter Orlando Hernandez in Game 1 of the playoffs because of a calf injury, too.

El Duque felt discomfort in his right leg while he was jogging in the outfield Tuesday as the Mets tuned up for their first-round series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 40-year-old right-hander was pulled off the field and went for an MRI exam.

“Obviously, we’re up in the air on who’s our starter tomorrow,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We have some options, obviously, but we’ll wait and see how he feels first and then we’ll make a decision.”

Those options are limited, however. Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is out until next summer because of calf and shoulder injuries.

Tom Glavine, slated to start Game 2, pitched Saturday in Washington. So if the Mets want to bump him up, the 40-year-old lefty would be working on only three days’ rest.

Steve Trachsel, who went 15-8 with a 4.97 ERA this year, skipped his scheduled outing last weekend to attend to a family matter on the West Coast. He was due back in New York on Tuesday evening, but Randolph said the right-hander probably wasn’t an option to pitch today in Game 1 on such short notice.

Randolph didn’t even think Trachsel had been throwing while he was away from the team.

That left rookie right-hander John Maine as a possibility. Maine was 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 16 games this season, including 15 starts.

But he obviously lacks the October experience the Mets were counting on with Hernandez, acquired from Arizona in May. El Duque is 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 19 career postseason games, including 14 starts, mostly with the Yankees. He also owns four World Series rings, and his teams are 12-3 in postseason series.

Hernandez’s MRI showed an injury to his calf, the Mets said – but they wouldn’t provide further details.

Doctors were to re-evaluate the test results Tuesday night, and the Mets planned to wait and see how Hernandez feels when he wakes up today before deciding on a starter. They must submit their 25-man roster for the first round by 10 a.m. today.

As for the Dodgers, their rotation is all set for the first three games. Derek Lowe will go in the opener, followed by rookie left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, who has 333 career wins.

Lowe pitched his best ball of the season down the stretch, going 8-1 with a 2.39 ERA in his final 11 starts to help Los Angeles win the NL wild card. Relying on his nasty sinker, he finished the year 16-8 with a 3.63 ERA.

The right-hander has had plenty of success in October.

, too. A closer in Boston before he became a regular starter, he has a 3.05 ERA in 17 postseason games, including six starts.

Lowe also won the clinching game for the Red Sox in all three of their postseason series in 2004, helping them to the first World Series title in 86 years.

“The playoff season is his time of the year,” said Dodgers skipper Grady Little, who also managed Lowe in Boston. “We don’t know where we’d be without him.”

In fact, the last time Little and Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra appeared in the playoffs, they were trying to end the Curse of the Bambino for Boston in 2003.

But Little left a tiring Martinez on the mound during an eighth-inning comeback by the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the AL championship series, and the Red Sox were eliminated in gut-wrenching fashion.

Little was let go soon after, and Garciaparra was traded to the Chicago Cubs the following July.

That fall, Lowe pitched Boston to the title.

Now, all three are key cogs on the revamped Dodgers, who lost 13 of 14 coming out of the All-Star break, then rebounded with a 17-1 stretch. They also dropped 12 of 20 before ending the season on a seven-game winning streak.

“We’ve been a streaky club all season long. And we’re on another one of those good streaks right now,” Little said. “Everything’s clicking. We’re just ready to get this thing started.”

Garciaparra is slated to play Wednesday despite a sore quadriceps and an ailing muscle on his side.

“I couldn’t tell you what hurts more,” he said. “They all feel good enough to go out there and play, and that’s what I’m pleased about.”

New York left fielder Cliff Floyd has been hobbled by a sore Achilles’ heel, but is expected to start as well.

AP-ES-10-03-06 1822EDT


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