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NYM@TOR: Hefner hurls five innings of strong relief

Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner will always remember his first pro team as the Padres, even if it was New York who drafted him twice before he signed with San Diego.

Hefner, 26, is scheduled to make the first start of his career Thursday against the Padres, the organization he made 120 starts for in the Minor Leagues. In the opener of the four-game series at Citi Field, Hefner will oppose San Diego left-hander Eric Stults.

All of Hefner's seven outings at Triple-A Buffalo for the Mets this season have been starts, with a 2.72 ERA, and he showed some length in a long relief role in the Majors on Saturday. Miguel Batista lasted two innings because of a back strain that landed the right-hander on the disabled list, and Hefner struck out five in five innings, giving up two runs on four hits and no walks. He took the loss in Toronto's 2-0 win, but nonetheless pitched admirably.

"I thought Jeremy was outstanding [Saturday]," manager Terry Collins said. "I told him so. He really pitched great. We are going to see what he can do, whether we're looking forward to it or not."

That outing was just Hefner's second career big league appearance. The Mets drafted him in the 46th round in 2004, and again in the 48th round in '05. He went to Oral Roberts University and signed with the Padres as a fifth-round pick in '07.

The Mets and Hefner finally became a pair after the Padres designated him for assignment after the 2011 season, which he spent at Triple-A. The Pirates claimed Hefner, only to put him on waivers less than a month later, when the Mets jumped in.

For Mets players, the next week and a half marks one of the happier times of the year away from the field: Thursday is the start of the club's longest homestand of the season -- 11 games. New York has won its past two games, against Pittsburgh, while the Padres entered an afternoon game against the Cardinals on Wednesday trying to avoid a three-game sweep.

Padres: Headley bothered by back
Chase Headley did not start Tuesday's 4-0 loss to St. Louis because of a "a lower back issue," manager Bud Black said. However, the third baseman returned to the lineup Wednesday night, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single.

"I came in early [Wednesday] and got treatment," Headley said. "It's fine. I would say I'm as 100 percent as you are during the season."

Huston Street has missed the past 18 games with a strained right lat muscle, but the Padres closer threw on the sidelines for the fifth day in a row Wednesday. Manager Bud Black said "he is getting closer to the mound"

"It's progressing nicely and I'm ready to start pushing it," Street said.

Mets: Torres out of lineup two days straight
• Center fielder Andres Torres is 1-for-34 dating to May 12, cooling drastically after a hot start to the season. He did not start for a second straight game on Wednesday, but did play the field late.

"He probably needs another day right now," Collins said of Torres. "He's working on a few things."

Mike Baxter led off and Kirk Nieuwenhuis started in center.

• The Mets entered Wednesday hitting .277 with two outs, the second highest average in the Majors.

Worth noting
• Citi and the New York Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi are teaming up with Habitat for Humanity's New York City chapter Thursday in a Brush with Kindness neighborhood revitalization event, at the King Towers Community Center and the Youth Chorus Office at Taft Houses in Harlem. The project is part of the Mets and Citi's "Teammates in the Community" initiative.

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