NEW YORK -- With regular catcher Rod Barajas suffering from tightness in his lower back, the Mets called up Josh Thole from Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday. Left-handed reliever Raul Valdes was optioned to Buffalo to make room for Thole on the roster.

It's the 23-year-old Thole's second stint with the big club this season, although he did not appear in a game during that May 10-15 stint. Thole hit .321 in 17 games with the Mets in September of last season and was batting .267 for the Bisons this year.

Barajas was out of the lineup on Thursday with what he described as stiffness. Henry Blanco made the start against Detroit and went 1-for-4.

After the game, manager Jerry Manuel said that Thole would probably get the start for Friday's series opener with the Twins.

Barajas, though, seemed determined to prove himself healthy enough to play by then.

"I know what major back pain feels like, and this is definitely not it," said Barajas, who has dealt with lower back injuries throughout his career. "If I come to feel where it's not going to limit me, I'll let [Manuel] know."

Valdes, meanwhile, was 2-2 with a 5.10 ERA and one save in 20 games for the Mets. He appeared in just three games since the start of June, and he had a 10.24 ERA over the last month. -- Tim Britton

Feliciano fills in admirably for Pagan

NEW YORK -- Manager Jerry Manuel gave utility outfielder Jesus Feliciano a vote of confidence on Thursday not only with his words but by leaving him in the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Angel Pagan, the starting center fielder, was held out of the lineup with spasms in his right side, and Feliciano filled in admirably in center field and in the batter's box, finishing 3-for-5 and scoring two runs in the 6-5 loss to the Tigers.

"I'm not trying to replace anybody, I just come to the ballpark ready to play every day," Feliciano said. "I'm ready to play wherever they want me to play, in the two-hole or eight-hole. I'm ready."

Pagan initially felt the soreness during batting practice on Wednesday but remained in the starting lineup. He aggravated the injury on a fifth-inning foul ball, and he was pinch-hit for in the seventh by Feliciano.

Manuel will give Pagan a few days off, and Pagan is happy to take the time if it means not making the injury any worse.

"I'm having so much fun right now, the team is playing so well," Pagan said. "I don't want to lose this time, the way I'm helping the team right now." -- Kyle Maistri

Beltran plays five frames in rehab start

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran went 0-for-2 with a walk in his first rehabilitation game for Class A St. Lucie on Thursday night. Beltran did not have a ball hit his way during five innings in center field.

Beltran has missed the first 71 games of the Mets' season after undergoing offseason surgery on his right knee in January.

"I feel like I'm in shape physically, but being out there playing for a game, you can never prepare for that," Beltran said before the game. "That's something that will come with time. I'm excited to be here today [for] my first game and looking forward to go out and having the chance to compete."

Before the Mets hosted the Tigers on Thursday, manager Jerry Manuel wouldn't even rule out a return by the center fielder for the Mets' series in Puerto Rico with the Marlins starting on Monday.

"I'm anxious to see how he responds tomorrow; that will be key," Manuel said. "If he plays well in these first couple games, he's going to be making phone calls to get up here."

The Mets have 20 days to recall Beltran once his rehab assignment starts, but Manuel refused to say that playing in Puerto Rico early next week was out of the question.

"I think he'd push for it," Manuel said of Beltran, a native of Puerto Rico. "He would really have to be doing extremely well for that to happen. A lot of things would have to go right for him. It would be a tough sell for him to make that trip."

That seems very unlikely, considering Beltran would only play three or four rehab games before Monday. Furthermore, Hiram Bithorn Stadium still has an artificial turf field, which is a less-than-ideal surface for a center fielder coming back on a surgically repaired knee.

General manager Omar Minaya said the Mets still did not have a timeframe for Beltran.

"We've got to see how he looks and how he feels," Minaya said. -- Tim Britton

Reyes feeling at home, and it shows

NEW YORK -- Jose Reyes is finally home again.

He didn't change cities, move from one house to another or go on a vacation. Manager Jerry Manuel credits Reyes' recent hot streak to his shortstop feeling "at home" at the top of the lineup.

Since Reyes moved back into the leadoff spot from the No. 3 spot in the order on May 15, he has hit .344 with a .944 OPS, six home runs and 11 stolen bases in 35 games.

"That's home for him. I was trying to take him out of his home. I was trying to take him somewhere else," Manuel said. "He was in his little house, I was trying to take him to a castle. ... He likes that. That's his home. That's what he likes."

Reyes' hot stretch also coincides with him finally feeling healthy after missing the majority of the 2009 season with a hamstring injury and Spring Training this year with a thyroid imbalance.

Still, Reyes has been very vocal about feeling much more comfortable being back in his home. And from the sounds of it, Manuel would be unlikely to try evicting him again. -- Kyle Maistri

Worth noting

According to general manager Omar Minaya, John Maine will head to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to strengthen his right shoulder. "Hopefully, he'll feel better and not have that discomfort," Minaya said. ... Oliver Perez is slated to toss a simulated game on either Friday or Saturday, according to Minaya. ... Manager Jerry Manuel is more comfortable with Jesus Feliciano playing center field than with Jason Bay sliding over and Chris Carter playing in left. Bay has started 37 games in center in his career, but none since 2005. -- Tim Britton