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Roster questions up in air for Mets

Many roster questions left up in air for Mets

NEW YORK -- When baseball's coffee break ends -- actually, before it ends for most teams -- the Mets will be back to work with a cast that is difficult to predict, down to the 25th place on the roster.

The greatest uncertainty involves the corner outfield positions that, were everything as it should be, would be manned by Moises Alou and Ryan Church. It is a given that neither will be in place Thursday night when the Mets and Reds play one of the four big league games scheduled. But there is little certainty about who will play those positions Thursday, the following day, next month or in September.

As the Mets prepared to play their 94th game on Saturday, the only certainty involved Alou, but even the scenario involving him is unclear. General manager Omar Minaya said he spoke with Alou Friday night and decisions have been made about neither his torn left hamstring nor his long-term future, i.e., retirement.

There were indications from the club that Angel Pagan could be back from his extended disabled list assignment Thursday, and if he isn't, Nick Evans may have his big league tenure extended. But those are only two of the options. Fernando Tatis was in left field for the 12th time Saturday and could be there Thursday. Or Marlon Anderson, or Endy Chavez, or Damion Easley.

Left field is the Mets' Everyman position. Eleven players have started at least one game there.

But with Church disabled and unsure of his immediate future, right field is similarly unsettled. Chavez was in right Saturday and, as the team's premier defensive outfielder, he is likely to do most of the right fielding for now. Chavez is one of five Mets right fielders this season, four remaining in the organization.

The Mets would prefer Chavez not play every day, they believe he is prone to reaching the point of diminishing returns after 10 days to two weeks of regular duty. And they think they and he are best served when Chavez is the No. 4 outfielder. He fills that roll as well as any outfielder in the National League.

While the Mets don't know what to expect from Church for now, they are encouraged by the recent developments involving him and what they believed were the lingering effects of the concussion he suffered May 20. Church returned Thursday from being examined by a specialist in Cleveland. The specialist, recommended by Mets physician David Altchek, determined that Church's latest problem was, as the outfielder had said, related more to migraine headaches and not to the concussion.

Church excused himself from the Mets' game in Philadelphia on July 5, saying the wooziness he experienced had been consistent with migraine symptoms he had experienced periodically since his adolescence. But the club cautiously re-assigned him to the disabled list.

Exercises for his upper back and neck have been prescribed for Church in hopes that they will relieve tension in his neck and thereby reduce the chances or headaches.

Now Church says he expects to return "sooner than later." And if he does, the left field assignment will become more settled with Tatis (against left-handed pitching), Chavez (against right-handed pitching) and switch-hitter Pagan likely to split the remaining responsibility. Manager Jerry Manuel prefers to keep Anderson available for pinch-hitting duties. With the Mets finally hitting, the need for Anderson's bat in the starting lineup is less pronounced.

Likewise, Damion Easley is more valuable to Manuel in positions other than the outfield. For now he is needed at second base, and for now, he is hurting. Easley's left quad has been strained. He said he could have played, but the Mets had Argenis Reyes to play second base.

Easley strained the muscle, running out a ground ball in St. Louis on July 3. It didn't bother him Friday night when he ran out the home run that secured the Mets' 2-1 victory. "If I could do it like that every time," he said, "I wouldn't worry about the leg."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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