NEW YORK -- John Maine may be rapidly returning to health, but his future remains more in doubt than ever.

Because of Hisanori Takahashi's recent pitching performances, the Mets "will not take him out of the rotation," according to manager Jerry Manuel. But Manuel also indicated that he does not consider Maine a candidate for the bullpen.

Maine, who will almost certainly make another start for Triple-A Buffalo this week, can remain on his current Minor League rehab assignment until July 12. At that time, the Mets must either extend his rehab, activate him or designate him for assignment, exposing him to other teams.

"We'll just have to make some tough, tough decisions in going forward," Manuel said, "if we deem after his next outing that he's ready to join us and compete at the Major League level."

In recent weeks, Manuel indicated that Maine would almost certainly replace Takahashi as soon as he returned to health.

"We're going to have to sit down and talk about that when the time comes," general manager Omar Minaya said. "Me, Jerry and [pitching coach] Dan Warthen, we'll talk about what's the next step with Takahashi and with R.A. Dickey throwing well. But it's a good problem to have."

Maine, who needed 88 pitches to throw 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball for Buffalo on Friday, sat in the high 80s with his fastball in that outing. He was 1-3 with a 6.13 ERA before hitting the disabled list with a case of right rotator cuff tendinitis last month.

Takahashi, meanwhile, has rebounded brilliantly after two subpar outings, following up a victory over the Orioles last weekend with six shutout innings against the Yankees in Friday night's 4-0 win.

That latter outing impressed Manuel most, considering Takahashi did it against a Yankees lineup that had seen him once before and had studied his tendencies.

"I think he has a tremendous sense for pitching," Manuel said. "He appears to make adjustments like a good hitter during the at-bat."

Maine, who is making $3.3 million this season, has won a combined 18 games over the past three seasons, after finishing 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in his breakout season of 2007.

Takahashi, meanwhile, is 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA since joining the rotation last month, having struck out 17 batters and walked seven. Dickey has also been a revelation, becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to have at least five wins with no losses in his first six starts with the club.

Minaya: Perez 'coming along' in rehab

NEW YORK -- Left-hander Oliver Perez threw approximately 70 pitches in a simulated game Friday, in what Mets general manager Omar Minaya simply called "a good outing."

Perez, who has been rehabbing in Port St. Lucie, Fla., since landing on the disabled list with right knee tendinitis earlier this month, is "coming along," according to Minaya. But there remains no timetable for his return.

Minaya also noted that Carlos Beltran, who is recovering from right knee surgery, could begin a Minor League rehab assignment soon, but the GM offered no indication as to when such an assignment might begin.

Many angles to Mets' winning streak

NEW YORK -- The Mets are on the verge of some rather impressive history.

With their eighth straight victory on Friday, the Mets matched the season-high winning streak they set back in April. The last time they won more than eight straight games came during a 10-game span in July 2008.

The Mets have also won seven straight games on the road, their longest such streak since they took a franchise-record nine straight road contests back in June 2006.

Additionally, the Mets on Friday became the 11th team in history to win nine straight Interleague games and the first since the 2008 Twins.

If warming, Frankie prefers to pitch

NEW YORK -- Up and down, up and down. That is what Francisco Rodriguez detests.

But Rodriguez has been doing plenty of movement lately in the bullpen, particularly in Friday night's 4-0 Mets win over the Yankees. Moments after manager Jerry Manuel asked his closer to sit down and cool off in what became a four-run game and a non-save situation, Manuel dialed the bullpen number again, reversing his orders as soon as Raul Valdes put a runner on base.

Rodriguez, who has made it clear that he prefers to enter games after warming for the first time, could throw only a handful of additional pitches before entering into a dicey save situation.

Though Manuel said that he leaves most of his communication with Rodriguez to bullpen coach Randy Niemann, he and his closer have spoken about the issue in the past -- including after Rodriguez warmed 11 different times during a win in St. Louis on April 17 that took 20 innings to complete.

"Of course," Rodriguez said when asked if he would have preferred to start Friday's ninth inning with a four-run lead. "You're already hot. You're already in the zone. You don't have to change anything. You just have to go out there and execute pitches. And that's an adjustment that I've got to do better -- make that adjustment, sit down, get up. I've got to find a way to do it better than that."