BALTIMORE -- Earlier this season, when his starting pitchers were dropping like flies, Mets manager Jerry Manuel wondered out loud whether general manager Omar Minaya needed to go out and acquire an experienced arm for the rotation.
Now, Manuel isn't so sure.
"One of the key things would be health. You can always kind of insulate yourself, taking a hit like we have in starting pitching [and] not know how that's going to resurface or rebound," Manuel said. "Then you still need some more depth behind that, unless you're going to go really, really young -- and that can sometimes be beneficial and can sometimes be really, really dangerous."
The windfall from a pair of unheralded 35-year-olds -- right-handed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who has gone 4-0, and lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who improved to 5-2 with a win over the Orioles on Saturday night -- makes Manuel more comfortable with the status quo.
"You can't get better than that," Manuel said. "Jonathan Niese is back, looks healthy and sharp. You've got Johan [Santana] and [Mike] Pelfrey. You're actually in pretty good shape. It's difficult, regardless of who it is, to replace 5-2 and 4-0 -- 9-2, I don't care who you go out and get, that's difficult to replace."
Manuel's solution for Bay: keep playing
BALTIMORE -- Jason Bay's numbers continue to be less than encouraging, yet Mets manager Jerry Manuel insists the best way for his slugging left fielder to work out of his slump is to continue playing.
So Bay -- who entering Sunday was 1-for-24 over his past six games with six strikeouts with one hit in his past 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position -- was back in the lineup for the finale of a three-game Interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles.
"If he's fresh, I think [Bay] has to play his way out of what he's [dealing with]," Manuel said. "I don't see fatigue as a part of his issues. It's more of him being in one of those streaks. The only way for him to get out is to play."
Still, Bay's drought has Manuel scratching his head. Bay, signed to a four-year, $66 million deal in the offseason, is hitting .272 with three home runs and 24 RBIs.
"I'm really puzzled by him," Manuel said. "He's just so different for me, that it's been really tough for me to figure out. We've talked about a lot of different things, mechanics and what have you, but he's played enough that you confidently feel that he knows what he's doing and he knows how to overcome it."
While Bay remained in the lineup Sunday, several other regulars got a break, as Manuel packed the batting order with left-handed bats against Orioles right-hander Kevin Millwood.
Chris Carter was back at designated hitter, a position Manuel had considered using to give shortstop Jose Reyes a break from field duty. Jesus Feliciano replaced Jeff Francoeur in right field and Alex Cora started at second base instead of Ruben Tejada. Right-handed-hitting catcher Henry Blanco caught Mike Pelfrey, giving Rod Barajas a day off.
Mets fans making Camden Yards home
BALTIMORE -- When Mets center fielder Angel Pagan goes on the road, he's used to looking up in the outfield stands and seeing the home team's colors -- red in Philadelphia, baby blue in Chicago -- as the dominant hues.
So Pagan has been pleasantly surprised during the Mets' Interleague series at Camden Yards, where orange-and-blue-clad Mets fans have made their presence known -- and heard.
"This is my first time here in Baltimore, and there's so many of our fans," Pagan said. "The majority of the people are for us, and that's good to have."
The phenomenon isn't new -- Yankees and Red Sox fans have made Camden Yards a second home for some time. The reasons are many: the widespread availability of tickets, inexpensive airfares from the New York area, cheaper hotel rooms than in some cities and the proximity of the two cities.
When the Mets exited the field Sunday after batting practice, they were greeted by a rousing cheer from a throng of fans crammed several deep around their dugout. The "Let's Go Mets!" chant has been prevalent through the series, and Orioles rooters haven't succeeded in shouting it down for any length of time.
"It's a lot of people. When you look up to the stands you see a lot of Mets fans," Pagan said. "When they cheer for you, it makes you feel like you're playing at home."
Injured second baseman Luis Castillo flew to Florida on Sunday to continue his rehabilitation in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Castillo has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 4 with a bruised right heel. ... Manuel said he would keep the rotation on turn despite Monday's scheduled off-day. That means left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, right-hander Mike Pelfrey and left-hander Johan Santana will start next weekend's Interleague series at Yankee Stadium. ... Shortstop Jose Reyes singled in the first inning Sunday to tie Darryl Strawberry for eighth place on the franchise's all-time hits list with 1,025.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.