PHILADELPHIA - The dawn of the Ike Davis Era has forced the Mets into yet another experimental phase with Daniel Murphy, who is expected to be used in a utility role at Triple-A Buffalo when he returns from the disabled list.

A person familiar with the club's thinking insisted that it was a tentative plan because there is no predicting what may happen between now and when Murphy is healthy enough to be activated. Murphy was supposed to be the Mets' Opening Day first baseman, but lost the job when he suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his right knee during the final week of spring training.

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Murphy, 25, has been on the DL since March 31 for an injury that the Mets estimated would cost him two to six weeks. He played five innings at first base Friday in an extended spring training game in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but took Saturday off.

The Mets do not anticipate trying him at second base or leftfield until he is completely healthy and they were unsure how much longer Murphy would need in Florida before heading to Buffalo. But with Davis anchored at first base for the immediate future, Murphy needs to give the Mets more defensive options if he is to be used in the majors as a utility player.

Also, the team has no idea if Murphy can handle a variety of positions. Last season, Murphy made the Opening Day roster as the team's starting leftfielder, but started only 27 games there before his defensive lapses - and Carlos Delgado's hip surgery - prompted the Mets to switch him to first base.

Murphy made his first career start at the new position May 20 in Los Angeles and continued to be a work-in-progress during the remainder of the season. Heading into this year, the Mets planned to have Murphy as their starting first baseman, even after signing Mike Jacobs, and his occasional tutorials with 11-time Gold Glove winner Keith Hernandez had them optimistic that he could handle the job.

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As long as Davis remains healthy, however, the prospects for Murphy at first base are slim. He could be useful off the bench. In 48 career games as a pinch hitter, Murphy is batting .317 (13-for-41) with a double, triple, two homers and 12 RBIs.