NEW YORK -- Angel Pagan's updated diagnosis of "point tenderness" in his left side, received Friday, left the Mets without a clear picture of when their starting center fielder might return.
In manager Terry Collins' estimation, Pagan will need another five or six days of rest before beginning baseball activities, then another dozen or so days before he'll be ready to play. And that's merely a rough estimate. It's probable Pagan will be sidelined until late May, possible he could be out even longer than that.
In his absence, the Mets will continue to proceed with a makeshift lineup, batting Daniel Murphy second and starting Jason Pridie in center field. Due in large part to injuries to Jason Bay and Pagan, the Mets have yet to use their projected Opening Day lineup this year -- not in Spring Training, not in April, not yet in May.
"It'd be nice to get them all out there to see what it's like," Collins said. "You envision them all playing good, too. There's going to be a time when, if the lineup lives up to what the numbers on their baseball cards say, it will be really impressive to see and watch. And I certainly hope that's coming."
That much will require health not only from Bay and Pagan, but also from Carlos Beltran, who has played more regularly this season than even Collins expected.
"You always hope to have your lineup out there," Collins said. "But the chance of that happening over 162 games is probably closer to 50 or 60 percent of the time."
Collins implores players to put team first
NEW YORK -- On days when there is a question as to Francisco Rodriguez's availability, Mets manager Terry Collins simply approaches his closer and asks.
But Collins isn't certain Rodriguez would ever tell him no.
"I have no idea," Collins said. "He hasn't yet."
Despite throwing 42 pitches in Thursday's game, Rodriguez told Collins he was available to pitch Friday -- which he did. And the manager expected a similar answer on Saturday.
Throughout the early season, Collins has made a point to ask players such as Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran about their health on a regular basis, not hesitating to sit them when they cannot go.
"The one thing we've tried to create here is to be upfront and be honest, and let's make the right decision," Collins said. "Because it's ultimately about the success of the ballclub and not each individual guy."
Healthy Reyes a triple threat for Mets
NEW YORK -- Despite Citi Field's reputation as an extreme pitcher's park, the stadium does provide a distinct advantage for one particular type of hitter. The outfield gaps are bigger than most anyplace else, making it a triples haven for players such as Jose Reyes.
"I know one thing: When he hits a ball between the outfielders, he gets out of the batter's box as good as anyone I've ever seen because he's thinking triple immediately," Mets manager Terry Collins said on Saturday, one day after Reyes tripled twice, doubled once, stole a base and scored two runs. "These gaps provide that for him. This park is made perfectly for him."
Due in large part to his inconsistent health, Reyes had been unable to take advantage of Citi Field's dimensions in 2009 and 2010, tripling a total of 12 times. He already has five triples this season, on pace for more than two dozen -- which would be the highest total since the dead-ball era.
"Here, it's easy because it's huge," Reyes said. "But any ballpark, I'm going to try to make it to third base."
Bubblegum tip helps Niese settle down
NEW YORK -- Earlier this season, Jon Niese introduced a more steady diet of two-seam fastballs into his game plan. Now, he's added yet another weapon.
On a tip from Chris Capuano between innings on Friday, Niese began chewing a wad of sugared gum and using it to moisten his fingers, as a way to better grip the baseball. It worked. Niese settled down from a rocky start to allow just one run his second time through the Dodgers lineup.
"He gave me a tip to chew some bubblegum and lick my fingers, get them sticky," Niese said of Capuano. "And it really helped. After that, it was a lot better. The feel for the ball [on Friday] was real dry."
Major League rules stipulate that a pitcher may lick his fingers as often as he wants, as long as he wipes them on his uniform prior to throwing another pitch.
"Sometimes if you're chewing a little gum, the sugar in the gum gives you a little extra tack so you can grip the ball and it doesn't slip out of your hand," said Capuano, who began using bubblegum as a way to combat cold temperatures as an amateur pitcher in Massachusetts. "Especially this year, when it's been cold, it's like throwing a cue ball out there if you don't have some kind of tack or rosin or something. Gum is nice because it's not super sticky. It just provides enough tack where you can get a grip."
Reliever Bobby Parnell (numbness, right hand) threw one inning without incident Saturday in an extended spring training game. Manager Terry Collins said he hopes Parnell will begin a rehab assignment this week at one of the upper levels of the Minor Leagues, where the cooler weather in upstate New York could help test his circulation. Ronny Paulino, who caught R.A. Dickey's bullpen session earlier this weekend, is scheduled to catch Dickey for the first time in a regular-season game on Sunday. Collins wants Paulino's right-handed bat in the lineup against Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. Pedro Beato (tendinitis, right elbow) will fly to Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Sunday to begin a rehabilitation program.