The Cuban right-hander makes his big league debut when the Mets (27-17) continue their three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies (23-21) Wednesday at Shea Stadium.
Soler defected from Cuba in November 2003 and signed a three-year contract with the Mets worth $2.8 million in August 2004. He went 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA in 18 games for the Cuban national team in 2003 and pitched on a club with Chicago White Sox starter Jose Contreras in Cuba.
Contreras has helped Soler adjust to life in a new country.
“Jose understands me. He knows leaving Cuba is a personal decision,” Soler said. “It was really hard, but that’s part of life, and you do it. It can be a good experience, or it can be a bad one. There are no guarantees here, but for me it has been great. Here I am, and I hope it all ends with a good story.”
Soler was called up Tuesday from Double-A Binghamton, where he went 1-0 with a 2.75 ERA in three starts.
“I never imagined I would be playing in the major leagues,” he said. “It was in the back of my head, but I never thought it would really happen. I had a life in Cuba.”
Injuries to starters Victor Zambrano, who is out for the season following elbow surgery, John Maine (finger) and Brian Bannister (hamstring) have left the Mets scrambling to replace the bottom of their rotation.
“Maybe he’ll throw us a gem and give us a good shot,” manager Willie Randolph said of Soler.
Soler will be opposed Wednesday by Jon Lieber (3-5, 5.81), who is taking the place of Cole Hamels after the rookie experienced soreness in the back of his left shoulder while throwing in the outfield Tuesday.
Hamels, who has not earned a decision in his first two starts while compiling a 3.18 ERA, will return to Philadelphia on Wednesday for an evaluation.
Lieber allowed five runs and seven hits—including three homers—in five innings of Friday’s 5-3 loss to Boston, ending a three-start winning streak. The right-hander is 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA in 17 appearances, including 13 starts, against New York.
The Mets beat the Phillies 9-8 on Tuesday in a 16-inning game that lasted 5 hours, 22 minutes—the longest in the majors this season. Carlos Beltran hit a walk-off homer for New York, which has won three of four.
The Mets used 21 players and the Phillies 18, including reliever Ryan Madson, who worked seven innings in relief.
“You can’t lose that kind of game,” Randolph said. “You use all your roster, you have to win the game. You’re out there that long, you don’t want to waste it.”
Madson threw 105 pitches before allowing Beltran’s homer.
“I never thought I would (go that long),” he said. “I felt better later. I felt comfortable. I had no idea how many pitches I threw.”
David Wright, Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes also homered for the Mets, while David Bell connected for the Phillies. Philadelphia, four games behind the first-place Mets in the NL East, has dropped six of seven.