ATLANTA -- Terry Collins has circled Aug. 1 as the date when he might decide to squeeze more starts from R.A. Dickey. The plan was talked about early in the first half, but the Mets shelved it until more dire circumstances arose, and that's what they could be facing if the rotation struggles in the wake of losing Dillon Gee.
Even if Miguel Batista or Matt Harvey proves to be a capable fill-in for Gee, the Mets still will be tempted to use their knuckleballer more frequently to take advantage of the Cy Young roll he's been on. That plan also could come in handy if Chris Young or Johan Santana needs an occasional day off.
"Fortunately, we have R.A. willing to do it," Collins said. "We're not going to start doing it right here because I think you're not going to like the results of the other guys if that's the case. But maybe Aug. 1, we'll take a look at where we are."
Dickey, 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, will start Saturday.
Frank Francisco's first rehab appearance has been pushed back indefinitely after the injured closer complained of oblique discomfort during his workouts in Port St. Lucie. Francisco has been on the disabled list since June 23. "He's going to be shut down for a day," Collins said.
Fill-in closer Bobby Parnell is 2-for-2 in save chances with four scoreless innings.
Gee had surgery Friday to repair the damaged artery in his right shoulder. He is expected to be out six to eight weeks . . . Jason Bay (concussion) continued his rehab with Class A St. Lucie and the Mets were to promote him to Buffalo after a few days . . . The Mets signed lefty C.J. Nitkowski to a minor-league deal. He'll report to Double-A Binghamton on Sunday.