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With Pagan swinging well again, Manuel will have tough decision

Mets' Angel Pagan watches the flight of his

Mets' Angel Pagan watches the flight of his double during the seventh inning against the Nationals, Sunday. (July 4, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON - Angel Pagan, now fully healed from his oblique strain, is doing his best to complicate the outfield situation with Carlos Beltran expected back after the All-Star break.

Pagan had missed six of the seven previous games before returning to the starting lineup Friday for the series opener against the Nationals. He had only a single and a walk - with three strikeouts - heading into Sunday, when he went 3-for-5 with two doubles, including one from the right side against lefthander Sean Burnett.

"It was tough without seeing pitches for a week, but I just kept battling," Pagan said. "I'm getting there. It's the best I've felt right now and hopefully, I can keep contributing to the team and help win some games."

Jerry Manuel said Beltran, who had to DH twice over the weekend because of wet playing conditions, is not scheduled to return until July 15, when the Mets open the second half of the season in San Francisco. That will force the manager to put Beltran in centerfield and divide rightfield between Pagan and Jeff Francoeur - with Pagan looking more like Manuel's favorite these days.

"He's played extremely well for us," Manuel said. "He's really come on as a player. He's taken up the challenge and stepped up."

Manuel added about rotating the outfield: "It will be a tough thing. A lot will depend on them. It's just now to the point where they have to perform to be out there. I'm going to try to make it as equitable as I can."

Extra bases

Jose Reyes (oblique strain) said he felt much better after a light workout, and Manuel expects to have him in the starting lineup Tuesday . . . With Thursday's day off, the Mets might choose to skip Hisanori Takahashi's turn and instead get two more starts each for Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana before the All-Star break.


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