PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Jerry Manuel is sticking to his declaration that the job of Mets starting catcher remains up for grabs.
It seemed unusual that Manuel would go with Santos for Perez's exhibition debut, given the team's inclination to use more experienced catchers - especially for the erratic Perez.
But after Santos provided an offensive highlight with his inside-the-park grand slam in the second inning, Manuel made it sound as if he still could be in the running. Or at least he wants it that way until spring training is over.
"We're still competing in that particular role at that position, yes," Manuel said.
Even though Barajas seems destined to be the starter, with Blanco behind him, Manuel really has nothing to gain by publicly alienating the other four catchers in camp. There has been interest from other teams in Santos and Chris Coste, with Coste the more coveted of the two.
Another K-Rod check-up
Francisco Rodriguez is scheduled for another doctor's exam today, and the Mets hope their closer finally will be cleared to rejoin the team.
Rodriguez has been banned from the clubhouse since last Monday, when it was determined his conjunctivitis (pinkeye) still was contagious. K-Rod's workouts have been limited to playing catch with his brother at home in Port St. Lucie.
The Mets are not yet worried about K-Rod because they believe he needs only about two weeks to get ready for Opening Day. But the clock is ticking.
An X-ray of Mike Pelfrey's bruised right knee came back negative, but the Mets' No. 2 starter wore a large ice pack on it for most of Sunday. Pelfrey was drilled in the knee by a line drive Saturday but remained in the game . . . Nationals starter Jason Marquis allowed three hits, five runs and walked three in two innings . . . Barring injury, lefthander Pat Misch has virtually no shot of making the Opening Day roster, but he has not allowed a run in six exhibition innings.