SAN DIEGO -- The Mets may have Carlos Beltran back in uniform sooner than they once thought. They're just not willing to commit themselves to that scenario quite yet.

Though Mets manager Jerry Manuel could not confirm a radio report in which Beltran said he expects to play in an extended spring training game within the next week, a team official acknowledged Tuesday that it is "possible" Beltran could do so. And Manuel said he has recently begun receiving positive reports on his disabled center fielder.

"From what I understand, he's progressing very well," Manuel said. "He's still in one of those situations where after he does something, you have to wait to the next day to see if he progresses to another level. From what I understand, he's on a nice track. When he will start playing depends on how he feels on a day-to-day basis."

Despite Manuel's optimism, there is reason for caution. Beltran's words, spoken Tuesday on New York radio station WFAN, came from the player and not the Mets' medical staff, which holds the final say in such matters. And the words came just five days after general manager Omar Minaya provided a far bleaker prognosis of the situation.

Either way, once Beltran begins playing games, he will still need four to six additional weeks of rehab before he can return to the active roster.

Beltran has been on the disabled list all season following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in January. He has been hitting and jogging for roughly a month, but has not yet begun sprinting or making outfield cuts.

"Obviously, we're concerned with his progress," Manuel said. "But I'm somewhat reserved in expectations when they come, because I haven't seen him in such a long time and I don't know the effect of the time off -- how that is going to play in his comeback."

Manuel did not dismiss the possibility of using Beltran in right field when he returns, which would reward Angel Pagan -- quite possibly the superior defender at this point in his career -- for his strong play all season. But he will wait to make such logistical decisions until Beltran is once again in uniform.

"I'd just like to obviously get that bat in the lineup at some point, some place," Manuel said.

Perez staying put at end of bullpen

SAN DIEGO -- Beleaguered starter-turned-reliever Oliver Perez won't be going on the disabled list. He won't be going to see a sports psychologist. He won't, in short, be going anywhere.

He'll be used the same way, according to Mets manager Jerry Manuel.

Manuel also said that the Mets would not, "to my knowledge," place Perez on the disabled list to correct any mental issues he may be battling.

Instead, because he refused an assignment to the Minor Leagues -- and because the Mets are not prepared to cut him and the roughly $20 million remaining on his contract -- Perez will remain right where he is: at the end of the bullpen, utilized only in blowout games.

"I just need to throw more innings," Perez said Monday, after allowing two runs in mop-up relief.

Igarashi attributes struggles to mechanics

SAN DIEGO -- Before Ryota Igarashi returned from the disabled list last month, Mets manager Jerry Manuel said that he hoped Igarashi could slide right back into the eighth-inning role he once embraced.

It didn't happen.

Now, Manuel only feels comfortable giving Igarashi the ball in low-leverage situations, in the hopes that his would-be setup man can begin to work out his troubles.

"You have to continue to get him an opportunity to pitch, and hopefully he'll figure out some things," Manuel said.

The problem, according to Manuel, is fastball command. According to Igarashi, it is a mechanical issue stemming from inconsistencies with his push-off foot.

"Mechanics are an issue," Igarashi said through an interpreter. "Of course, my mechanics aren't good. But it's also about my lower body right now."

Since returning from the disabled list, Igarashi has walked three batters in three innings and posted a 33.00 ERA. Prior to the injury, he held a 1.35 ERA in 6 2/3 innings.

Niese's return pushes Nieve back to 'pen

SAN DIEGO -- With Jon Niese prepared to come off the disabled list in time for Saturday's game against the Marlins, Fernando Nieve -- who made a spot start last Saturday -- has officially moved back into his old bullpen role.

Nieve, who threw 62 pitches in his start against the Brewers, was available Tuesday at PETCO Park if needed. He posted a 9.75 ERA in May after producing a 3.46 mark in April.

All-Stars Among Us finalists revealed

SAN DIEGO -- Major League Baseball announced the Mets' three finalists on Tuesday for the 2010 "PEOPLE All-Stars Among Us" campaign. The program aims to recognize individuals who are "serving their communities in extraordinary ways."

The club's three finalists are: Hector Algarroba, 56, of Astoria, Queens, who founded HSS, an organization that collects used baseball equipment and medical supplies for needy children in developing countries; Marguerite Baber, 50, of Bayonne, N.J., who created two organizations to support the autism community; and Luis Iza, 57, of Guttenberg, N.J., who founded Operation Exodus Inner City to help Latino children in Washington Heights achieve academic excellence and stay out of gangs.

One of those three finalists will represent the Mets and be honored at the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif.