NEW YORK -- Keith Hernandez, out six weeks with a hamstring injury, said Thursday he will start at first base for the New York Mets in the opener of an important four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Mets begin their four-game set Friday night at Pittsburgh. New York, which lost 4-3 Thursday to the Chicago Cubs, entered the day leading the second-place Pirates by four games.
The Mets are expected to make the move of taking Hernandez off the disabled list and sending utility infielder Keith Miller to Triple-A Tidewater sometime before Friday's game.
Hernandez has been on the disabled list just twice in his career, both this year with the right hamstring injury. He was orginally placed on the DL June 13 then re-injured himself running the bases and was put on the DL again June 24.
'I couldn't do anything for three weeks and very little for two weeks,' he said of the second injury. 'There's no pain, not even in getting quick starts out of the batter's box. We've tried it. There's no reason not to play.'
With Hernandez out, the Mets have cooled off after a strong start. New York was 45-24 when Hernandez re-aggravated the injury. Since then the Mets are 19-19.
The Mets have particularly missed Hernandez's Gold Glove fielding at first base and his clutch hitting. Hernandez was batting .345 with 24 RBI with men in scoring position this year. As a team, New York was hitting .238 in such situations going into Thursday.
'The reason we're not playing well is a lot of guys are not hitting,' Hernandez said. 'I hope I can add something to the offense.
'I think we'll win the division, but a little hitting wouldn't hurt.'
In 54 games this season, Hernandez is hitting .298 with five homers, 35 RBI.