NEW YORK -- The Mets' lineup on Saturday was without a hot-hitting middle infielder. Jose Reyes was still in his customary spot at the top of the order, but Ruben Tejada received the day off.

A day off for Tejada wouldn't seem to open up any kind of significant void at second base, but that would ignore the rookie's surprising production at the plate of late. Always known for his slick fielding skills, Tejada is in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak during which he's batting .345.

"The evaluation always comes with the bat for him," manager Jerry Manuel said. "For a young hitter, he has a good swing. It's good to see him doing what he's doing at the plate."

Tejada is batting .264 in 17 games this season for the Mets, not far below the .274 average he has posted in three-plus Minor League seasons. The 20-year-old has turned into a sparkplug at the bottom of the Mets' order, with nine runs scored in his last nine games. He illustrated that on Friday, when he led off the fifth with a long double to off the wall in left-center field, moved to third on a bunt by Mike Pelfrey and scored on a shallow fly ball to left from Reyes.

Though Tejada came up to the Majors with a solid reputation as a fielder, Manuel didn't expect him to make the transition from short to second so seamlessly.

"We always felt that he was a good defensive player," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I have been surprised and impressed by his ability to adapt to second base as well as turn the double play with the runner coming in on him."

Tejada's emergence has helped the Mets stay hot without Luis Castillo in the lineup. Tejada, in fact, has a higher average than Castillo this season, and has four fewer runs scored despite playing in 27 fewer games. He has four extra-base hits to Castillo's three.

The Mets are 15-4 in the 19 games Castillo has missed. Tejada's play is representative of an organizational depth that was absent a season ago, when a spate of injuries left the Mets with few options, especially in the middle infield.

"We left Spring Training anticipating that if something were to go wrong like it did last year, that we had enough depth and the system was ready to produce Major League players," Manuel said. "Some things have happened and those guys have come up and played extremely well."

Prince Harry throws first pitch for Mets-Twins

NEW YORK -- Prince Harry tossed out the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field before the Mets hosted the Twins in Saturday's 6-0 loss.

With a Mets cap on his head, Prince Harry took his time on the mound, even wiping his brow in mock nervousness, before delivering a strike to Rod Barajas. While he threw the pitch in a T-shirt, the prince was given a specially designed Mets jersey, with the No. 22 and "Wales" printed on the back.

Before the pitch, the prince was tutored a bit by Mets starter R.A. Dickey, who played catch with him for about five minutes. Dickey said he had to revise Prince Harry's motion from more of a cricket style to a baseball delivery.

"He was originally doing it like cricket, but I said, 'You better not do it with this ball,'" Dickey said. "He has a natural cutter."

Jeff Francoeur also advised him on how to properly grip a baseball across the seams. The outfielder later beamed when he saw the prince checking his grip right before he threw the pitch.

"You meet a lot of people around this place -- movie stars. But to actually meet a prince like that, that was pretty cool for all of us," Francoeur said. "I actually said something to him about USA getting first place in Group C. He said he'd have the last laugh is what he told me. I'm not welcome there."

Prince Harry was joined for the game by British and American veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mets get Barajas back in lineup

NEW YORK -- The Mets have dodged any major injury set backs, for now.

Catcher Rod Barajas, who missed the last two games with tightness in his back, is back in the lineup for Saturday's game against the Twins. Barajas was insistent that he could've played Friday, but manager Jerry Manuel wanted to give him the day off.

Closer Francisco Rodriguez, who also had his back tighten up on him during the ninth inning of the Mets 5-2 on Friday night, is ready to pitch and available for use.

And center fielder Angel Pagan, who has been out of the lineup since Thursday with pain in his side, is available to pinch-run Saturday and expected to return to the starting lineup in Sunday's series finale with the Twins.

"I'm having so much fun and the team is playing so good, I just don't want to miss any more time," Pagan said.

For Manuel, history trumps pitch counts

NEW YORK -- As far as the Mets are concerned, D-backs manager A.J. Hinch made the right decision.

Hinch let Edwin Jackson throw 149 pitches to finish his eight-walk no-hitter on Friday, something that Mets manager Jerry Manuel would've done as well.

"I dont think you interfere with history, if the guy is trying to make history," Manuel said. "You have to give him every opportunity."

Mets starter Mike Pelfrey only lasted six innings and 117 pitches in his own Friday night start, but he said he would've wanted to be left out there in the same situation.

"If that gets you a no-hitter, it's worth every pitch," Pelfrey said.

Manuel pointed to the fact that pitchers used to routinely throw much higher pitch counts as proof that a pitcher can throw 150 pitches without getting injured.

The bigger problem is that is hardly asked of them anymore.

"We have probably taken that too far, the pitch count," Manuel said. "We have trained the mind to think that they can only throw a certain amount of pitches. If you train to finish the game regardless of what it took, then I think the pitch count would be different. We've trained people to be somewhat limited because injury is a possibility."