NEW YORK -- The herniated disc in backup catcher Henry Blanco's neck was feeling "a lot better" Sunday morning, prompting the Mets to option third catcher Omir Santos to Double-A Binghamton after the 7-6 win over the Marlins.

Because Blanco now feels good enough to play, the Mets had no need to retain Santos on the roster. They will fill his roster spot prior to Tuesday's game -- most likely with outfielder Jesus Feliciano, who is batting .385 for Triple-A Buffalo.

The Mets do not plan to make an official corresponding roster move until Tuesday.

Earlier this week, the Mets designated Gary Matthews Jr. for assignment in order to make room for Santos. The move was designed to protect Blanco, who had a successful cortisone injection to relieve the pain in his neck.

"There's no pain," Blanco said Sunday morning. "I actually think the shot is working pretty good."

Blanco was batting .286 with one home run in 49 at-bats before the injury.

Feliciano, who went 0-for-6 for Buffalo on his 30th birthday Sunday, should slot onto the Mets as a fifth outfielder and another left-handed bat off the bench. A .281 career hitter with minimal power over 12 Minor League seasons, Feliciano is nonetheless one of the hottest players in the entire organization.

Maine makes progress, but 'pen may be fate

NEW YORK -- John Maine threw another bullpen session Sunday and continues to make steady progress in his return from right rotator cuff tendinitis. But to what end? With Jon Niese off the disabled list and both Hisanori Takahashi and R.A. Dickey performing adequately in the rotation, the Mets do not have much room for Maine.

It is possible, then, that once Maine returns -- after a batting practice session on Tuesday and a full slate of Minor League rehab outings -- he could slot into the bullpen.

"That's not too radical," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I think we will have to look at all options and see where we are as a team, see where he fits."

The possibility may not amount to much to the Mets if a rotation member suffers due to injury or poor performance between now and the time Maine is ready to return from the DL -- still weeks away.

But it is a possibility, and the Mets could use the bullpen help.

Entering Sunday's play, Mets relievers had posted a 9.55 ERA over their previous eight games, including a 19.44 mark over three games in San Diego. They ranked last in the Majors with 103 walks.

Maine has not pitched in relief since 2006.

Cora slotted at second to get playing time

NEW YORK -- Despite manager Jerry Manuel's Friday proclamation that Ruben Tejada will be the starting second baseman while Luis Castillo is on the disabled list, Alex Cora was in the lineup Sunday, batting eighth.

Manuel has not changed his mind. Instead, he simply wanted to find playing time for Cora, while preventing Tejada from facing a tough right-handed pitcher, Ricky Nolasco.

"Tejada is a young player that right now," Manuel said. "I kind of like to pick and choose his battles."

Picking and choosing battles for Cora isn't necessarily a bad idea, either. In eight career at-bats against Nolasco prior to Sunday's game, Cora was 4-for-8 with a double and a triple.

Tejada was 2-for-8 with two doubles in his first two games back with the Mets.

Pagan cheers Cotto at Stadium's big fight

NEW YORK -- Count Angel Pagan among the pleasantly surprised.

Though fellow Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto entered Saturday night's Stadium Slugfest at Yankee Stadium billed as a heavy favorite, Pagan -- an avid boxing fan who attended the fight -- was not convinced his countryman would be able to knock out the junior middleweight titleholder, Yuri Foreman.

But when it happened, Pagan was also among the cheering thousands. And like many of them, he was inside Yankee Stadium for the first time.

"I always watch the fights on TV," Pagan said. "I just wanted to experience the Stadium."

Pagan, who has played 321 career games but none of them in the Bronx, will be back in less than two weeks for the second installment of this year's Subway Series.