SAN DIEGO -- In a down defensive season for the Mets, one player who has not experienced many issues is Ruben Tejada, who continues to impress the organization with both his fielding prowess and throwing ability at shortstop. Tejada -- the favorite to start at the position next season if Jose Reyes signs elsewhere -- has grown accustomed to seeing himself on daily sports highlights shows, making throws from deep in the hole at shortstop.

"I watch all the plays," Tejada said. "You work for that, so you feel good when you make the plays."

There is, of course, still improvement to be made. Specifically, Tejada has been working on perfecting backhand plays on ground balls to his right, often a source of vexation for him.

Mostly, though, the Mets have few complaints.

"I feel great," Tejada said. "Shortstop is my natural position that I played in the Minor Leagues all the time, so I feel good."

Reyes may be ready sooner than expected

SAN DIEGO -- Jose Reyes could return to the Mets a bit sooner than expected.

Days after saying Reyes had little chance to return from the disabled list when eligible on Aug. 23, Mets manager Terry Collins now believes such a timetable may be realistic.

"It's conceivable," Collins said on Wednesday afternoon, when asked if Reyes could be activated next Tuesday.

That much depends entirely on how Reyes responds this Friday, when he will attempt to run for the first time since straining his left hamstring earlier this month. Reyes has spent this week taking batting practice, fielding ground balls, and throwing and moving laterally in the field. But running at full speed represents a much more significant test.

The last time Reyes strained his left hamstring, he missed nearly three weeks with the injury. But both he and Collins have classified this most recent strain as not quite so serious.

"I know it wasn't as bad as the first one, and he said he's been feeling good and he's ready to go," said Collins, who spoke to Reyes earlier this week by phone. "He just said, 'I'm ready to get back on the field,' which was a good sign."

Pagan's outfield struggles remain a mystery

SAN DIEGO -- It was merely one year ago that Angel Pagan ranked second on the Mets in ultimate zone rating, an advanced metric designed to determine a player's overall defensive value. By that measure and others, Pagan gained stature as one of the most valuable defensive center fielders in the National League.

A year later, Pagan's UZR ranks second-worst on the team and lowest amongst all primary NL center fielders. Though not always reliable in small samples, such measures nonetheless paint a general picture of defensive value.

All of which begs the question: What happened?

Pagan's manager, Terry Collins, believes much of the problem has been his lack of assertiveness in center field. Accustomed to deferring somewhat to former teammate Carlos Beltran on fly balls, Pagan has since assumed the role of outfield quarterback. But he is not always forceful with that responsibility.

Take Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Padres, for example. Though Pagan called off teammate Scott Hairston on a first-inning fly ball to right-center field, he slowed at the last moment upon converging with Hairston.

"I saw Scotty close, and I kind of backed off a little bit," Pagan said, noting that he was unsure if he would have caught the ball either way.

The issue, Collins said, may be nothing more than unfamiliarity with his defensive neighbors.

"You get so used to playing with certain guys," Collins said, referring to Beltran, "even though you know there's somebody else out there, you have that instinct."

What Collins' theory does not explain is why Pagan has also struggled throwing balls back to the infield, most recently on Orlando Hudson's RBI single later that inning.

"You can practice and practice, but when you've got to speed it up and you -- for some reason -- get on the side of the ball and that thing cuts, you're screwed," Collins said. "We've just got to continue to do what we think is best. And that is to do our drills and practice it, and hopefully they start making better throws."

Worth noting

• Johan Santana (recovery from left shoulder surgery) is at least a week away from returning to a mound, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters on Wednesday. Though still not official, it is nearly certain that Santana will not return to the Majors this season.

• The Tigers plan to promote farmhand Shawn Teufel to Triple-A in time to face his father, Tim Teufel, a member of the 1986 Mets and current manager of Triple-A Buffalo. The younger Teufel, a left-handed pitcher, will start for Toledo on Thursday against the Bisons.