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Castillo's health bodes well for the future

Castillo's health a good sign

ATLANTA -- One of the more inexplicable wrinkles of this bizarre Mets season has doubled as one of the few things gone right. All year long, Luis Castillo has been able to play.

Far more surprising than Castillo's production -- an average well over .300 and an on-base percentage floating around .400 -- has been his health. In a season in which seemingly no Met can stay off the disabled list, Castillo -- he of training room infamy -- ranks third on the team in games played. And the two men in front of him, David Wright and Daniel Murphy, are both more than seven years his junior.

"He came into Spring Training on a mission," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of the rejuvenated Castillo. "In the offseason, he got himself in great physical shape. I'm sure, mentally, he processed some things."

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And so, as the Mets continue to play out the balance of their season, Castillo will continue to play second base and bat near the top of the order. One of the club's few consistent offensive weapons, Castillo has also been solid on defense -- his current 27-game errorless streak is his longest of the season.

It's hardly fair that Castillo's one moment in the spotlight this season came for a negative reason, when he dropped a potential game-ending popup during a Subway Series tilt back in June. Quietly, he has more than redeemed himself, ranking fourth in the Majors with a .432 on-base percentage since July 1.

"That's a big surprise right there," Manuel said. "We didn't think he'd be the guy that could withstand or endure the stress of a full season. He's been there, hasn't had a stint on the DL. That has been a surprise."

And certainly a welcome one, considering all that the Mets have endured this year. Even though Castillo's renaissance season has gone largely to waste, the Mets can now look to next year without having to worry about their second baseman, who still has two seasons remaining on his contract.

At this time last year, the Mets were preparing to ship Murphy off to play second base in the Arizona Fall League, prompting fans to call for an end to Castillo in Queens. Now, Castillo appears to be a fine option at second base in 2010.

"He has put together a real good year," Manuel said. "The wins that we've had, the rallies that have been started -- he's been right in the middle of most of them."

Perhaps the Mets have a few more rallies left in them, and perhaps one will come Thursday at Turner Field. Nelson Figueroa, seeking his first win in three starts, will oppose Jair Jurrjens of the Braves in the Mets' final game in Atlanta this season.

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Nelson Figueroa (2-5, 4.57 ERA)
That Figueroa limited the Phillies to two runs in 5 1/3 innings at Citizens Bank Park on Friday was an accomplishment of note if only because the damage could have been far greater. He allowed nine hits and five walks. And after striking out 10 and eight in his two previous starts, he struck out three, including opposing pitcher Cole Hamels twice. Figueroa has allowed eight earned runs in his last four starts (23 1/3 innings) but has one victory and three losses to show for his efforts. Figueroa has faced the Braves once this season; he allowed two runs in two innings of relief pitching at Citi Field on Aug. 19. The active players on the Braves' roster have batted .324 in 34 collective at-bats against Figueroa. But only Chipper Jones (2-for-12) has more than four at-bats against him. Five of the six home runs Figueroa has allowed have been hit by right-handed batters.

ATL: RHP Jair Jurrjens (11-10, 2.81 ERA)
Jurrjens' tough-luck spell was halted on Friday, when he tossed eight scoreless innings against the Phillies and notched just his second win during a nine-start stretch that has included a 3.10 ERA. The 23-year-old right-hander has allowed two earned runs or less in 22 of his 30 starts this year. He is 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA in three starts against the Mets this year.

Tidbits
Closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was in New York on Tuesday for the birth of his twin children, rejoined the team Wednesday in Atlanta. ... First baseman Carlos Delgado (right hip surgery) took 40 swings in the batting cage Wednesday but has made no progress toward a return. ... Outfielders Gary Sheffield (lower back discomfort) and Fernando Tatis (sprained left index finger) have been cleared to pinch-hit. Sheffield lined out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning on Wednesday night. ... Wright is 5-for-14 with a home run, a triple and a double in his career off Jurrjens.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• SNY

On radio
• WFAN 660, WADO 1280 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 10-10, 5.09) vs. Nationals (J.D. Martin, 4-4, 4.29), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Mets (Tim Redding, 2-6, 5.52) vs. Nationals (John Lannan, 9-11, 4.08), 1:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Mets (John Maine, 5-5, 4.45) vs. Nationals (Garrett Mock, 3-8, 5.89), 1:10 p.m. ET

Anthony DiComo 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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