MIAMI -- Should the Mets need an emergency catcher this season, a man with a complete lack of catching experience would have to fill the role.

Citing infielder Chin-lung Hu's tremendous hands on defense, manager Terry Collins said that Hu would probably be the choice if both starting catcher Josh Thole and backup Mike Nickeas were injured or unavailable during a game. Asked if he had mentioned that to Hu, Collins laughed. "Not yet," he said.

Though he is athletic and versatile, Hu has never strayed from the middle-infield positions since turning pro in 2003.

"Maybe I'll try it," Hu said. "Why not?"

Beltran in line for days off early on

MIAMI -- Among the most encouraging aspects of Friday's season-opening loss to the Marlins was the play of Carlos Beltran, who doubled, ran well in the outfield and did not look like a man with two bad knees.

The Mets plan to keep it that way.

"I haven't really put down expectations as far as number of games played," manager Terry Collins said Saturday afternoon. "What I do want to make sure I do is when I put him out there, he can give me what I saw last night. I don't want to put him in a situation where he has trouble going after a ball because his knees are bothering him, or overdo it so I lose him for a month."

Beltran's first off-day should come Sunday, with Willie Harris playing left field and Lucas Duda sliding over to right. And the Mets will continue to give Beltran regular rest throughout the first few weeks of the season -- perhaps not always in day games following night games, though that's certainly a start.

It comes at perhaps a good time. Not only did Beltran score from first on a double in Saturday's game, he also banged against the right-field wall attempting to chase down a foul ball.

"I hit it good," Beltran said. "But I'm OK."

Those are words the Mets hope to hear often this season. The goal is for Beltran to appear in well more than 100 games, after playing in a total of 145 over the past two seasons.

"If I lose him for a couple days, I'll buy that, I can handle that," Collins said. "So that means there's going to be some days off now. The one thing I don't want to do is push the envelope too early."

Buchholz's scoreless streak ends in opener

MIAMI -- Consider this: before serving up Logan Morrison's home run in the eighth inning Friday, reliever Taylor Buchholz had gone nearly eight months without allowing a run in a big league game.

Coming off a spotless Spring Training, Buchholz was untouched in Grapefruit League play, save for one inherited run that he allowed to score. And after being claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays last September, he mostly sat idle in a crowded bullpen, making two scoreless appearances all month.

His last earned run, then, came last Aug. 7, in a brief bullpen appearance against the Pirates. Soon after, he began the unofficial scoreless streak, which ended Friday night at 18 innings.

"I got it over with quickly this year," Buchholz quipped.

More remarkable would be going another eight months -- and presumably dozens of appearances -- without allowing a run.

"That would be all right," Buchholz said. "I'd take that."

Worth noting

Collins plans to speak with Francisco Rodriguez this weekend regarding the closer's usage in non-save situations. That could become an interesting subplot this season, thanks to Rodriguez's $17.5 million contract option for 2012, which vests if he finishes 55 games. "I'm not going to let him go out there just to pitch an inning and jeopardize the game when I'm going to need him the next day," Collins said. ... Jason Bay (strained left intercostal muscle) has not yet begun participating in baseball activities. The earliest Bay can come off the disabled list is April 9.