Jason Bay to rejoin Mets on Thursday

Jason Bay takes batting practice during spring training.

Jason Bay takes batting practice during spring training. (Feb. 25, 2010) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

The Mets plan on having Jason Bay back for Thursday's game against the Astros. They're also hoping that David Wright and Angel Pagan return to form at some point before then.

Bay has been on the disabled list since the start of the season with a left rib-cage strain, and after meeting Monday with team officials in New York, the Mets decided to extend his rehab stint in Florida for two more days.

But when looking at the Mets' early offensive struggles, it's not all about the absence of Bay. And until he proves otherwise, there will be a lingering skepticism of what he might even add in coming off a concussion-shortened season of six home runs in 95 games.

At the very least, Bay will help lengthen the lineup in the No. 5 spot, and allow Pagan to bat second more regularly, despite Josh Thole's successful debut (two RBI singles) hitting behind Jose Reyes in Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Braves.

That should help Pagan get more fastballs, and as a result, maybe become the impact player the Mets were counting on. It's only 16 games, but Pagan is batting .169 (10-for-59) with a .271 on-base percentage. Since a two-hit game April 13 against the Rockies, Pagan is in a 1-for-18 slide with one walk and five strikeouts.

"One of the keys on this club is the centerfielder," manager Terry Collins said. "Make no mistake about it, we've got to get him rolling. When he's swinging the bat good, and he's up at the top of that order, that's a dangerous top."

The other half of Collins' dream combo, Reyes, is off to a running start and has hit safely in 14 of the Mets' first 16 games. Reyes heads into Tuesday night's series opener with the Astros batting .315 (23-for-73) with a .351 on-base percentage and a team-high .493 slugging percentage.

Reyes has scored 11 of the Mets' 68 runs -- tied with Wright for the team lead -- and reached base to open a game eight times, scoring in half of those instances. The only glaring deficiency for Reyes has been a 2-for-19 (.105) mark with runners in scoring position.

As the Mets wait for Bay, and Collins juggles the lineup, much of the pressure has fallen on Wright, who had a rough stretch in Atlanta. He was 0-for-11 with six strikeouts during the series, which featured three games in a 24-hour span thanks to Saturday's doubleheader.

One bad weekend is hardly a fair measuring stick, especially for a streaky player like Wright, but it was an abrupt U-turn from his quick start. Through the first 10 games, Wright was 13-for-40 (.325) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBIs.

As one of the only Mets players to consistently stay in the lineup the last few years, Wright often feels the strain to make up for the team's DL casualties. The return of Bay should help, but he realizes that won't necessarily be the solution.

"Most of us have had our ups and downs so far," Wright said. "We've got to get everybody going so we don't rely on Jason so much."

On Sunday, Collins sounded anxious to get Bay back in the lineup, and suggested that he could return as early as Tuesday night's series opener at Citi Field. But after he and general manager Sandy Alderson discussed the matter with Bay -- and consulted with trainer Ray Ramirez and team physician Struan Coleman -- the consensus was to have Bay play two more games for Class A St. Lucie before returning Thursday.

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