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Church bells ringing again for Mets

Church bells ringing again for Mets

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NEW YORK -- Ryan Church was in full stride as he stuck his glove out for a line drive off Derek Jeter's bat. Going all out for the ball, Church couldn't get an inch off the ground, and it slipped toward the wall as the Yankees shortstop calmly strutted into second base with a double.

While it might seem like this near snag was held back by the aching legs of a returnee just off the disabled list, Church would gladly state that this play was in no way connected with that. Neither were the two hits, both singles, in the series finale against the Mets' crosstown foe.

In fact, Church couldn't stop chirping about taking four out of six games from the Yankees this season after the Mets topped the Bombers, 3-1, in the Subway Series finale on Sunday. And, boy, would he have liked to have been out there on the field since Friday. Unlike many of the Mets, who were happy to be done with the series, Church couldn't help but be refreshed by being a part of it.

The right fielder wants no part of concussion discussions anymore -- no more headaches, no more dizziness and no more waiting for a doctor's prognosis.

It's all about baseball now, and with simple phrasing, Church released everything else out of sight.

"It's finished; it's over," Church said. "I'm back."

With all that has transpired inside Church's head these past few weeks, those two syllables -- "I'm back" -- meant so much. As far as he's concerned, Church wants to be the Mets' everyday starting right fielder, and he hasn't heard anything to the contrary.

As long as his post-concussion-syndrome symptoms don't strike once more, nothing should change. Before Sunday's game, manager Jerry Manuel said Church might have to play through any rust, as the Mets may have no rest time to spare in upcoming series against the Cardinals and the Phillies. And Church is more than welcoming a routine that involves more attention to his hitting than his head.

"We don't know what their game plan is," Church said, concerning how many off-days he could see in future weeks. "I want to play."

But everything rests on his health, which has been far from predictable. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 9, because the Mets thought Church was all healed prior to that move -- the right fielder telling them as much, as well -- only to have the symptoms reappear.

This time, though, Church said it's different. The Mets' training staff kept an eye on him on Sunday, and Church was proud to report after the game that not even the slightest headache popped into his head while he was running the basepaths or after he ran down a fly ball. That's encouraging for Manuel, who missed that .304 average in the lineup.

"Hopefully, he's off and running," Manuel said, not even knowing how much Church would love to keep on chugging.

"I kept my fluids in me, and I felt good all day," said Church, who couldn't stop smiling. "My legs don't hurt."

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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