NEW YORK -- John Maine insists that he's ready. The playoffs are nearing, and if the Mets are in the race, Maine won't let a bone spur in his right shoulder hold him back, especially if he manages not to feel a substantial amount of pain when he gives it a twitch or fires off a fastball.

That's what he reported after throwing 25 pitches in a simulated game on Monday -- he insists he felt nothing -- testing only his fastball and slider. The results, he said, were about as positive as he could have expected.

"After I threw my 25 pitches, I felt fine," Maine said. "It felt the same all the way through."

Maine threw to five batters -- Daniel Murphy, Robinson Cancel, Argenis Reyes, Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley -- and manager Jerry Manuel trusted those who stood in the batters' box and reported that they saw "good life" on Maine's pitches.

"It's a situation where we can be a little bit more optimistic at this point," Manuel said. "It depends on how he responds and those things, as well."

Manuel will most certainly check on Maine for any soreness on Tuesday, and even if the right-hander says he is prepared to throw in a real game, the skipper will consult with doctors before activating him from the 15-day disabled list.

Though Manuel said he didn't want to put a date on Maine's return, he approximated that Thursday would be the earliest, mapping out a day of rest followed by some light throwing on Wednesday.

If and when Maine comes back, it will definitely be in a bullpen role, Manuel said on Monday, one that would be limited to no more than one-inning appearances.

Furthermore, Manuel reiterated that he doesn't expect to see Maine's normal 95- to 96-mph fastball when he comes back, but more in the low 90s as he regains some of his stamina after being placed on the DL on Aug. 25.

Another important adjustment for Maine will be how he warms up, as he isn't used to the quick stand-up-and-sit-down regime that a bullpen arm endures.

"He'd have to start an inning. A decision would have to be made really early," Manuel said. "Those five, six, seven pitches might not be as far as being loose, but it could be critical as far as the game goes. So we will have to give him an amount of time that, in two or three pitches, he's out there feeling pretty good. ... You have to be cognizant that he is a starter."

But in recent days, Maine's move to the bullpen has become an increased topic of conversation. And after the Braves tagged the relief corps for a four-run eighth inning on Sunday, Manuel received plenty of questions about how Maine could patch up the situation.

Expectedly, Manuel found a way to make that fodder a positive.

"Well, they think everything else is good," he said of the reporters' predominantly Maine-centered questions, laughing. "They feel everything else is straight. They think we are in good shape. That's a good thing."