Josh Thole #30 of the New York Mets lays in...

Josh Thole #30 of the New York Mets lays in the dirt with after a collision at home plate with Ty Wigginton #24 (not pictured) of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. (May 7, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Josh Thole wasn't exactly an emotional wreck Friday, but his nerves were working overtime as he prepared to return from a concussion suffered in a home-plate collision nearly a month ago.

"It was like Opening Day again," the Mets catcher said. "I was pacing around my house this morning and just anxious to get back out here."

Thole was activated off the 15-day disabled list before the Mets' series opener against the Cardinals, taking his spot behind the plate for the first time since May 7. The Mets optioned backup catcher Rob Johnson to Triple-A Buffalo, called up righthanded reliever Elvin Ramirez and designated pitcher Chris Schwinden for assignment.

Thole, who's expected to start at least three of the four games in this weekend's wraparound series, sported a hockey-style mask rather than the traditional one for catchers. He believes his new piece of equipment provides more protection, and he'll remove it only on high pops hovering around the plate.

"It took me a few days to get used to it," Thole said. "It's a little more heavy than the other one. Once I got used to that, I had no problems and have been using it for six or five days . . . It will stay on for virtually everything."

Extra bases

With an ominous weather forecast for Saturday, Terry Collins said he might pitch Jeremy Hefner rather than scheduled starter R.A. Dickey, whose only loss this season came on a rainy night in Atlanta . . . Ruben Tejada (quadriceps) ran a bit, did some hitting and took ground balls Friday, and Collins said the plan is for him to run the bases Saturday. If all goes well, Tejada will be shipped off for a rehab assignment. Jason Bay (ribs) will continue serving as a DH in games in Port St. Lucie this weekend, and Collins hopes Bay will start playing the outfield by Monday. "If we can get him in a game soon defensively, he'll be here very soon after that," the manager said . . . Chris Young might be called up before his next scheduled start for Triple-A Buffalo.

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