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Injured Hernandez left off Mets’ roster; Maine to start Game 1

NEW YORK — Orlando Hernandez is expected to miss the entire postseason because of a calf injury, and Mets rookie John Maine will start Game 1 of the playoffs Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hernandez has a torn muscle in his right calf and was left off New York’s first-round roster, leaving the NL East champions without two of their top starters.

“All year long we’ve had guys who picked each other up,” general manager Omar Minaya said. “I’m confident somebody will pick up El Duque.”

With the Mets already missing Pedro Martinez, Hernandez had been slated to start the postseason opener. But El Duque got hurt Tuesday while jogging in the outfield, leaving the Mets scrambling to rearrange their rotation.

They turned to Maine, who went 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 16 games this season, including 15 starts. The right-hander had not been expected to pitch until later in the series at Los Angeles — if at all.

Had Martinez not been sidelined for the entire postseason by calf and shoulder injuries, Maine might have been left out of the playoff rotation altogether.

Now, he will start Game 1 at home before a packed house of more than 50,000 fans. And he could wind up pitching twice in the series.

Maine 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.

An MRI on Tuesday revealed Hernandez sustained a Grade 2 tear in his calf.

“That takes time,” Minaya said.

The Mets informed Maine on Tuesday night that there was a good chance he would start Wednesday. After Minaya and manager Willie Randolph discussed all their options, they decided on Maine late Tuesday night, the GM said.

Hernandez was replaced on the first-round roster by erratic lefty Oliver Perez, acquired at the trade deadline with reliever Roberto Hernandez in the deal that sent right fielder Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh.

Left-handed reliever Royce Ring also made the team. He had been sent to Florida as part of a taxi squad to stay ready.

The Mets kept 12 pitchers for the first round.

Backup outfielder Michael Tucker was included on the roster, giving the Mets another left-handed bat on the bench. Rookie outfielder Lastings Milledge and outfielder Ricky Ledee were left off. Milledge also was part of the taxi squad in Florida.

New York kept two catchers instead of three: starter Paul Lo Duca and backup Ramon Castro. Mike DiFelice was left off.

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