“Photo finish” for fifth starter, pitching coach says

The New York Mets’ fifth starter remains a mystery just four days shy of Opening Day.

Mets’ Pitching Coach Rick Petersen, speaking to the ESPN announcing crew during today’s 9-4 Grapefruit League win against the Atlanta Braves, said both Orlando Hernandez and Mike Pelfrey will get a chance to earn the spot Friday in Fort Lauderdale against the Baltimore Orioles.

“Right now it’s going to be a photo finish, I feel,” Petersen said.

Petersen added that El Duque continues to work on his new, toned-down windup, which the 41-year-old righthander is adopting to alleviate pressure on his toe.

Neither Hernandez (3 innings, 4 hits, 2 walks, 5 earned runs) nor Pelfrey (4 1/3 innings, 13 hits, 8 earned runs) did much to make their cases for the fifth rotation spot against the St. Louis Cardinals on Easter Sunday.

Friday marks the 2008 Mets’ final spring training game in Florida.

The team heads to Memphis on Saturday to play the White Sox in the annual Civil Rights game, which commemorates the U.S. civil rights movement.

Then it’s on to the regular season, and 162 more chances to break the no no hitters curse.

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