Florida Marlins' Hanley Ramirez, top, crosses home plate on a...

Florida Marlins' Hanley Ramirez, top, crosses home plate on a sacrifice fly by teammate Ronny Paulino (not shown) as New York Mets catcher Rod Barajas, bottom, misses a throw during the seventh inning of the baseball game Sunday, June 6, 2010, at Citi Field in New York. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

BALTIMORE - Rod Barajas, whether behind the plate or standing beside it, has proven his worth to the Mets every day as the team's starting catcher. For that reason, it might make sense for Omar Minaya to consider opening extension talks before this season is over and Barajas becomes a free agent again.

The Mets got lucky when Barajas dropped into their laps only days before the start of spring training this year. But with Josh Thole's progress delayed by injuries at Triple-A Buffalo, and no comparable replacements in the system, locking up Barajas for at least another year might be a smart play.

"I'd definitely be open to it," Barajas said before yesterday's game against the Orioles. "I haven't heard anything. Nobody's come to me, but I'm definitely open to it.

"I'm having a blast here. I'm enjoying New York, I'm enjoying the fans, my teammates. There's no reason for me not to want to come back here. If they brought it to my attention, I'd definitely love to talk."

But the Mets are reluctant to negotiate in-season, and a person familiar with the situation said yesterday that it would be very unlikely for them to talk with Barajas before he becomes a free agent.

Still, Barajas through Saturday is batting .257 with a team-leading 11 homers and 30 RBIs. His .512 slugging percentage also is tops on the Mets.

Pretty good for a player earning $900,000 this season with another $1 million possible in performance incentives.

Since Mike Piazza's departure after the 2005 season, and the two-year reign of Paul Lo Duca, the Mets have struggled to find a catcher as reliable as Barajas has been.

The Mets could save themselves the aggravation of searching for another catcher this winter and turn to the 34-year-old Barajas for another year or two.

Iggy on thin ice?

With little need for the bullpen lately, Jerry Manuel may be losing patience with fixing Ryota Igarashi. The manager suggested before yesterday's game that he may need a trip to the minors to straighten himself out because of too few opportunities with the Mets.

"We really need to find out what we have in him to see if he can be a piece going forward," Manuel said. "We've got to find a way, or we've got to make a decision one way or the other - is this beneficial or not beneficial being at this level."

Going, going, gone

The Mets put Gary Matthews Jr. on release waivers Friday for the final step in cutting ties with the outfielder. Matthews was designated for assignment on June 4 and the Mets still owe him roughly $1.5 million through 2011.