NEW YORK -- The win-at-all-costs portion of September has arrived. Gone are the days when Mets manager Jerry Manuel enjoyed the luxury of employing Johan Santana on his regular turn. And so despite his previous reservations, Manuel indicated Friday that, if necessary, Santana will pitch Saturday on three days' rest.

"We're talking about the end of the season, where we have a pretty good chance to make it special," Santana said. "If we have to step it up to go to the next level or do something else, then we'll definitely do it."

Yet the situation is not as simple as Santana made it seem. Manuel indicated that if the Mets are either tied or trailing the Brewers in the National League Wild Card race heading into Saturday's play, then he would use Santana on short rest -- the first time he's done so since pitching for Minnesota in the 2004 American League Division Series against the Yankees.

But if the Mets are leading the Brewers on Saturday morning -- in other words, if they win Friday night and the Brewers lose -- then Manuel would go with Plan B. That could be either Brandon Knight, Nelson Figueroa or rookie Jonathan Niese.

And if either Friday or Saturday's game is postponed due to a coastal storm rumbling through the region, then Santana would pitch the first game of Sunday's doubleheader on regular rest, followed by Oliver Perez -- whom Manuel didn't mind using before his scheduled turn -- on short rest. Follow?

"Let's talk about something else," Manuel joked.

Santana was the one who brought it up, after Manuel said earlier this week that he would only consider starting him on short rest if Santana came to him and asked for the ball. Santana did precisely that Thursday, saying that he was ready if needed. And considering the circumstances, he'll quite likely be needed.

Though Santana doesn't have much experience pitching on three days' rest, he excelled when he did so during the 2004 playoffs, pitching five innings of one-run ball against the Yankees. He has changed no part of his daily routine in preparation for throwing early this time around, but he didn't expect his routine, nor his manager's current indecision, to affect his performance.

"I told the trainers they better get me ready," Santana said. "Because if I have to pitch on Saturday, I'll do it."