El Duque throws on flat ground after having protective boot removed

NEW YORK -- Mets pitcher Orlando Hernandez threw on flat
ground Monday after the boot protecting his sore right foot was

Hernandez hasn't pitched since he allowed six hits and a
season-high eight runs over three-plus innings in a 13-5 loss to
Atlanta on Sept. 11. He has worked just six-plus innings since Aug.

Hernandez said he threw easy and felt good. He plans to throw a
bullpen session Tuesday if the foot responds well, but refused to
speculate beyond that.

"I'm waiting for tomorrow. That's it," he said.

New York's magic number for clinching a second straight NL East
title remained at five after a 13-4 loss to the Washington
Nationals on Monday night. Its division lead dropped to two games
over idle Philadelphia.

The Mets hope to get El Duque back on the mound during their
season-ending, seven-game homestand to help determine what he might
be able to do in October.

"You want to go into the end of the season having a better feel
for everyone and where everybody fits in," manager Willie Randolph
said before the Mets faced Washington in the opener of a three-game

Hernandez, a terrific postseason pitcher, is 9-5 with a 3.75 ERA
this season. He missed the playoffs last year with a torn right
calf muscle.

Also for the Mets, All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran has
tendinitis in both knees but he went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly
in the loss to Washington. He left Sunday's 7-6, 11-inning victory over Florida in
the seventh inning.

Beltran could get some rest if New York clinches the division
title early in the homestand.

"That'd be great if it happens," he said. "It'd be great but
right now we're not in that position. We've got to go out and win