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Ailing Marcum's return date still in question

NEW YORK -- As Aaron Laffey slid into the rotation Sunday for his first start of the season, the Mets remained unsure of when Shaun Marcum, the man Laffey is replacing, might return.

"We don't know," manager Terry Collins said. "It's hard to say. If Shaun comes back pretty fast, I would think it's going to be a couple weeks. You're looking at maybe two to three starts."

Marcum has not completed even a bullpen session in more than two weeks, so he will need time to build up his arm strength after the nerve inflammation in his neck subsides. Collins' estimate -- a best-case scenario -- has Marcum returning sometime in mid- to late-April; a slower progression could keep him out until May.

Marcum has not resumed baseball activity since receiving injections in his neck this week to calm his inflammation. Until he does -- and, more importantly, proves that he can pitch without pain -- the Mets will not be able to set an accurate timetable for his return.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.
Read More: New York Mets, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter, Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Laffey