ATLANTA -- Though neither was in the lineup, Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan both used the same word Wednesday to describe their status: "Better."
Reyes took full batting practice for the first time since aggravating his right oblique strain last Thursday at Citi Field, swinging from both sides of the plate. Though he attempted to swing in an indoor cage Sunday, pain in his oblique forced him to stop after merely half a dozen swings.
The report was even more encouraging on Pagan, whom the Mets expect back in the lineup Thursday. Pagan missed his second straight game Wednesday with tendinitis in his right wrist.
Mejia improves repertoire in Minors stint
ATLANTA -- From general manager Omar Minaya on down, word of Jenrry Mejia's improved curveball spread rapidly throughout the Mets organization this week after his strong start Monday with Triple-A Buffalo. But Mejia, who will make his Major League starting debut this Saturday in Chicago, prefers another of his pitches.
"My changeup," Mejia said. "I've got two good pitches, but my changeup I like."
Since returning to the Minor Leagues in late June, the 20-year-old Mejia has worked hard to develop his curveball into a Major League-caliber pitch -- something both he and the Mets feel he has accomplished. After throwing the pitch less than nine percent of the time with the big club earlier this year, Mejia estimated he threw roughly 20 percent curves in his lone start with Buffalo.
But Mejia still favors his changeup, which -- in the style of Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez and the league's other hardest throwers -- he typically delivers in the mid-80s.
In sum, the three-pitch repertoire may help Mejia succeed in ways he could not during his Major League debut earlier this year. Though Mejia's mid- to upper-90s fastball was enough for him to breeze through four levels of the Minors over his first two years as a professional, hitters began sitting on the fastball once he reached the big leagues.
Now, Mejia feels his secondary pitches have improved to the point that hitters can no longer ignore them.
"I know I can compete here," Mejia said
The Mets believe it too, prompting them on Wednesday to officially replace Pat Misch in the rotation with Mejia, who does not turn 21 until after the season. If he succeeds, Mejia will gain an inside track on a rotation spot for 2011.
"My reaction was like, 'Wow,'" Mejia said of his promotion. "This is what I wanted."
Duda starts in left field in debut
ATLANTA -- Because Triple-A Buffalo has been fighting for a playoff spot, and because Lucas Duda has played a significant role in that quest, Duda was wholly unsure if the Mets would ask him to make his Major League debut this September.
Then the phone rang Tuesday evening, and Duda learned that he was headed to the big leagues.
"I couldn't really sleep [Tuesday] night," he said Wednesday afternoon. "I'm kind of tired right now."
But no rest awaited Duda, who made his big league debut later that evening, starting in left field and batting seventh against the Braves. Duda, 24, had been enjoying a breakout season in the Minor Leagues, batting .304 with 23 homers between two levels.
"It's just one of those years where everything seems to have gone well," Duda said. "Hopefully I can continue it."
Though there is little question regarding Duda's hitting abilities, the Mets do have some concerns with his defense -- he's a converted first baseman. But at least initially, they will play him nearly every day in left in an effort to acclimate Duda to the big leagues. If he succeeds, the Mets could give him a hard look in Spring Training for a roster spot next season.
"If he comes in here and bangs that baseball around like people say that he can, shoot," manager Jerry Manuel said. "You may have to find some different combinations out there."
Manuel eager to see Arias play
ATLANTA -- Athleticism and versatility were the products of the Jeff Francoeur trade.
Those benefits came neatly packaged in the form of infielder Joaquin Arias, whom the Mets received from the Rangers late Tuesday night in exchange for Francoeur. And the Mets are intrigued by him.
"I'd like to see him in the infield," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I'd like to see him at short. I'd like to see him at second. I really want to see him at the plate."
Though the Mets may have to wait a day or two -- Arias has not been in uniform since the Rangers designated him for assignment Aug. 24, and the organization wants to make sure he's in proper game shape -- they will likely give Arias a shot at multiple positions down the stretch.
Once a top prospect of the Rangers, the 25-year-old Arias hit .276 in 98 at-bats for Texas this season, most of them before the All-Star break. He was in uniform for the Mets on Wednesday.
"My understanding," Manuel said, "is that he can play everywhere."