Former Angel Gary Matthews Jr. will start in center field...

Former Angel Gary Matthews Jr. will start in center field for the Mets in Monday's opener. (File photo, 2009) Credit: AP

Gary Matthews Jr. will be the Mets' Opening Day centerfielder, manager Jerry Manuel announced Sunday. But Manuel would not go as far as to say Matthews has beaten out Angel Pagan for the job of full-time replacement for the injured Carlos Beltran.

"I don't want to use that term," Manuel said. "I would say let's determine a win of the job at the end of this month or May rather than spring training. So we're still kinda finding where guys belong. It's new. It's a new season. It's Opening Day. It's the major-league season."

Manuel indicated that each outfielder will start at least two games in a row in the season's first month as the competition from spring training spills into the regular season.

"Right now I'm going to try to give them an opportunity to play with some consistency and then evaluate and then see what's the best for us," he said. "They're going to both get, I wouldn't say an uninterrupted opportunity, but they're going to get a chance to put together some things and go through some things and we'll see where we are."

Manuel also said he prefers to have shortstop Alex Cora in the leadoff spot in Jose Reyes' absence.

Regarding Jenrry

It appears as if the Mets are going to bring 20-year-old reliever Jenrry Mejia along slowly. Manuel was asked if he would bring Mejia into the game in the eighth inning Monday if the Mets held a one- or two-run lead.

"I wouldn't give him the ball [today]," he said. "Not in that situation. No."

Extra bases

Johan Santana is 5-1 with a 1.68 ERA against Florida. Marlins starter Josh Johnson is 7-0 with a 2.30 ERA against the Mets . . . Darryl Strawberry will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

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