NEW YORK -- In line with the "prevention and recovery" philosophy the Mets adopted after their black-and-blue 2009 season, the team is taking its time returning injured position players Ike Davis and Angel Pagan.

Davis, a first baseman, has begun fielding ground balls and taking swings in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but he has not yet run on his sprained left ankle. Manager Terry Collins said that he doesn't expect Davis to play in any rehab games, but the first baseman isn't likely to play until a few days after he can come off the 15-day disabled list on Thursday.

"I want to make sure the foot's OK first," Collins said. "I want to make sure that he's moving, not that Ike's the fastest guy, anyway. But I want to make sure, because the quickness and his defense are a big part of his game."

Also in St. Lucie is Pagan, who is batting .250 with a home run in his past four rehab games with the Class A team. Collins said that the right fielder, out with a strained left oblique since April 21, would play with St. Lucie through Wednesday before moving up to Triple-A. He expects Pagan to be back with the Mets shortly after.

Thole gets break from starting duties

NEW YORK -- The statistical definition of Josh Thole's slump is staggering. After a fine first week of the season, Thole has since fallen into a six-week funk with a .172 average, a .245 on-base percentage and a .204 slugging percentage. Over his last 31 games, he has recorded three extra-base hits. Over his last 17 games, he has one.

As a result, Thole is no longer the Mets' unquestioned starting catcher. Manager Terry Collins said on Sunday morning that he plans to give Ronny Paulino a string of consecutive starts at the position, in large part to give Thole time to clear his head and work on his swing.

"I thought about it last night, thought about it this morning," Collins said on Sunday. "Josh is still going to play. He's still going to get a number of at-bats. I just want to make sure we try to keep them both as sharp as possible."

There is reason to believe that Paulino, a career .274 hitter with staggering numbers against left-handed pitchers, can give the Mets some additional pop with sluggers David Wright and Ike Davis both on the disabled list. So far this season, Paulino has been playing only against lefties and, more recently, on days that Mike Pelfrey was the team's starting pitcher, such as on Sunday.

But Paulino will become the first-string catcher for this week's games in Chicago, despite the fact that the Cubs plan to deploy right-handed starters on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We've talked about it and talked about it, so we're going to play him a couple days and give him some consistent at-bats," Collins said.

For Paulino, the step is significant considering the physical hurdles he has cleared just to be here -- first a blood irregularity that spoiled his Spring Training, then an oblique strain that sidelined him until late April.

"Now, mentally and physically, I finally feel much better," Paulino said.

For Thole, meanwhile, this represents an indefinite break. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens plans to spend time working with Thole this week, attempting to recapture the swing that saw him hit .321 as a rookie in 2009 and .303 over his first 55 games last season.

"The one thing we have to do is be patient because this guy can hit," Collins said. "And he's going to hit. Right now, I just want to give him a chance to work on some things. We've got another guy we think is going to hit, too."

Wright to see back specialist in California

NEW YORK -- His teammates en route to Chicago following Sunday's 9-3 loss to the Yankees, David Wright stayed back in New York City in preparation for a flight to California. Wright planned to meet Monday with back specialist Robert Watkins in Los Angeles, part of what he called "the blueprint for getting better."

"This guy, from what I understand and what I've been told, is one of the best back doctors in the country," Wright said.

Though a team official said the purpose of the visit is to receive a second opinion on the stress fracture in Wright's lower back, the third baseman classified it more as "part of the process in getting better." Since landing on the disabled list on Wednesday, Wright has done nothing but rest on the command of team doctors in New York City. The next step is to determine what he can do to heal, and when he can begin that process.

"I know exactly what the problem is," Wright said. "Now it's just a matter of doing what we can to get back on the field. This is the next step."

Wright's original timetable called for 10 days of rest followed by a reevaluation. Though both parties remain optimistic, neither he nor the Mets expect a return before June.

"I don't think you can say it's three days or two weeks," manager Terry Collins said on Sunday morning. "The healing process in that situation is the stress fracture. He'll probably have to do a lot of exercises to make sure the muscles around that area are strong."