Pelfrey start moved back to Monday

SAN FRANCISCO -- New York Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey has been scratched from Saturday's start against the San Francisco Giants because of neck stiffness. Pelfrey's first second-half outing has been rescheduled for Monday in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi will flip assignments with Pelfrey and face the Giants on Saturday.

Pelfrey believed the neck stiffness arose from sitting in an awkward position on flights from his home in Wichita, Kan., to San Francisco as the Mets reassembled following the All-Star break.

"I know I slept with my head down for 45, 50 minutes," Pelfrey said Friday. "When I got here yesterday, I went to go lay down and something spasmed -- almost tightness.

"Yesterday they worked on it. It's 10 times better today. It's still a little tight with rotating. I told them that, and I told them I could pitch. They said they didn't want me to alter anything in my motion, that they would just give me extra days since we have the flexibility to do that. I told them I could pitch, and they said no."

Pelfrey doesn't intend to pick up a baseball until Sunday, the day before his start.

Manager Jerry Manuel, who is also without shortstop Jose Reyes because of a right oblique issue, offered gallows humor when it was noted that traveling from San Francisco to Phoenix would require Pelfrey to board another flight.

"That's true," Manuel said. "We'll let him take the train down there."

Pelfrey raced to a 9-1 start this season, but he was knocked out in the fifth inning in each of his final three first-half starts. He entered the All-Star break with a 10-4 record and 3.58 ERA. He was not selected for the National League All-Star squad, which he still laments.

"I think if you would ask anybody in baseball, 'Hey, you get three days off or you can go be All-Star,' I think they would rather be an All-Star," Pelfrey said. "But I got to go home. I had three days there and I thought it was great. It was a good time to rest and relax."

The rescheduling of Pelfrey's pitching assignment does allow him to avoid facing the Giants in the same ballpark where the right-hander had three balks on May 17, 2009. That's when his season-long issues with runners on base came to the forefront last year. Pelfrey said he would not have been trying to prove anything had he proceeded with facing the Giants.

"I'm over that now," said Pelfrey, who saw a sports psychologist over the winter. "I feel comfortable again on the mound. That's the farthest thing from my head."

During that outing last season in San Francisco, opposing catcher Bengie Molina spotted Pelfrey mouthing to himself that he was about to throw a slider. Molina, tipped off about the impending pitch by Pelfrey's gimmick to try to get past the balk issue, slammed the ensuing slider for an RBI single.

"I was trying to take my mind off the other [balk] thing, just trying to get my mind focused on the pitches," Pelfrey said. "I thought the way to do that was to sit there and tell myself that, I guess. He can read lips."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.