PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Less than four days after he said he felt inclined to use Luis Castillo as his No. 2 hitter, manager Jerry Manuel said on Monday night that Daniel Murphy is likely to bat second regularly, against all pitchers.

At first Manuel said that he was "learning toward" batting Murphy second, characterizing him as "a player you want to get up to bat as many times as you can."

And before his praise of the left-handed-hitting left fielder was complete, he all but excluded the possibility that Castillo would bat second. Manuel spoke again about his preference for one established batting order and how the offense will benefit from Murphy's patience. He said he would try "everything I can do to keep the order consistent."

Manuel also acknowledged, for the first time, that Livan Hernandez has won the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Hernandez already had been scheduled to start the Mets' fifth game, against the Marlins in Miami on April 11.

In other news, the Mets have signed left-handed pitcher Ken Takahashi, who had been in camp with the Blue Jays, to a Minor League contract. The 39-year-old from Japan, released by the Jays on Monday morning, had spent the previous 14 years with the the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He had a 66-87 record in 433 games (160 starts).