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ATL@NYM: Colon fans six, allows three earned runs

Forty-year-old outfielder Bobby Abreu is tentatively scheduled to make his first start of the season on Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals, but he'll only be the second-oldest player on the field.

The Mets, who have four players 36 or older on their active roster, will start soon-to-be-41-year-old Bartolo Colon in the series finale at Citi Field.

All those birthday candles have presented a unique challenge for manager Terry Collins, who is working diligently to keep Colon, Abreu, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Valverde -- and his other players -- fresh.

"You've got to take care of them, for sure," said Collins, who frequently uses day games after night games to find at-bats for his bench players. "You've got to monitor them. That's just the nature of the beast right now. When you get to be 40 or so, it just doesn't come back as fast the next day as you'd like it to.

"No disrespect -- they're as ready as anybody. It's just [that] sometimes it's harder to bounce back the next day. I do the best I can to make sure each and every guy is on board with what's going on that particular day, and if they say, 'Look, I need a blow,' they'll get one."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny doesn't have that problem with his rotation, which features 22-year-old Michael Wacha, 23-year-old Shelby Miller, 26-year-old Tyler Lyons and 26-year-old Lance Lynn, all of whom were in grade school when Colon made his big league debut.

Lynn, who is 4-0 with a 3.42 ERA, will start on Thursday. The right-hander is looking to improve to 13-0 all-time in March and April.

Mets: Collins juggling bullpen
With Bobby Parnell out for the season and Valverde ineffective late in games, Collins has spent most of April searching for a back-end bullpen mix that works. New closer Farnsworth has pitched well in limited opportunities, but the Mets are still playing the seventh and eighth innings by ear.

One name that Collins recently introduced into the mix is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who entered the season with only one career relief appearance. The Mets would like to keep Matsuzaka stretched out as a starter for as long as possible, but they value his potential late in games as well.

Collins has also leaned heavily on right-handers Carlos Torres and Gonzalez Germen and lefty Scott Rice late, and will continue to do so until the Mets establish a dedicated setup man.

Cardinals: Wainwright all right
Adam Wainwright offered optimism that he will make his next start as scheduled on Sunday against the Pirates despite hyperextending his right knee in Tuesday's game at Citi Field.

"Everything is good," Wainwright said on Wednesday afternoon. "To be honest with you, I am better than I thought I would be. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was just a hair sore with full extension of my leg. But I can fully extend it and straighten my leg out with no problems."

Matheny was slightly more guarded in his assessment, saying it is "too early" to know for sure if Wainwright will be good to go. But the Cardinals have ample reason to hope, considering Wainwright has not allowed a run in 17 consecutive innings.

Worth noting
• Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an RBI double in the first inning on Wednesday. Molina added a single in the sixth and a double in the eighth, marking the eighth time in 13 games he has recorded multiple hits.

• Second baseman Daniel Murphy lost a hit when Major League Baseball made a scoring change to the Mets' April 19 game against the Braves. Upon review, MLB ruled that Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla committed an error on the play.

• Matt Carpenter may have been the only left-handed player in the Cardinals' starting lineup on Wednesday, but it did not stop him from rapping out three hits against Mets lefty Jon Niese and four in total. Carpenter has six multihit games on the season. Comments