PHILADELPHIA -- Mets shortstop Jose Reyes will begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Double-A Binghamton, putting him on track to return from the disabled list by early next week.

Reyes, who has been on the DL since Aug. 8 with a strained left hamstring, ran a series of sprints to first base at something close to full speed on Monday afternoon. He did not go all-out because, in his own words, he "didn't want to do anything crazy."

Regardless, Reyes is healthy, and the Mets are penciling him in for three to four rehab games -- meaning he could return as soon as Sunday against the Braves. At the very least, barring a setback, the Mets should activate Reyes at some point during their upcoming seven-game homestand.

Prior to straining his left hamstring for the second time this season, Reyes had been struggling to rediscover the MVP-caliber form he displayed throughout the first half of 2011. In the 18 games between his two injuries, Reyes hit .256 with a .280 on-base percentage. Compare that to his .354 average and .398 on-base mark prior to his first hamstring strain.

Even so, entering Monday's play, Reyes continued to lead the National League with a .336 average and 16 triples, giving him an opportunity to become the first Mets player ever to win an NL batting title.

Pelfrey to remain a starter for Mets

PHILADELPHIA -- When Mike Pelfrey jogged onto the field for a tune-up relief outing last week in San Diego, he felt a different sort of adrenaline course through his body. He experienced an unusual sensation on the pitcher's mound.

"I was able to let it go for an inning," Pelfrey said, reflecting on the experience. "It got my blood flowing, running in."

Even so, relief work will remain nothing more than a novelty for Pelfrey. Despite some recent internal discussions to try out Pelfrey as a closer, the Mets will continue to use the right-hander as a starting pitcher every five days -- both now and in the future.

"It was just a thought I had," manager Terry Collins said. "I'm trying to come up with options of, as we look down the road, what can make us real good."

One idea was, given the Mets' lack of solid closing options for next season, to try out Pelfrey in the role. The logic was that Pelfrey, who has struggled this season as a starter, would be able to let loose with his velocity and focus on his sinker -- by far his best pitch -- in one-inning spurts.

It was a discussion that grew large enough to include Pelfrey, who was receptive of the idea. But in the end, the Mets nixed it on the basis that they would not easily be able to replace the sheer volume of Pelfrey's workload as a starter.

"It's one thing to say it," Collins said. "It's another thing to replace 200 innings, which he's going to give you."

Pelfrey, for his part, "would prefer to start, obviously," but the discussion is now closed.

"I took nothing from it," Pelfrey said. "Of course my response was, 'I'll do whatever you want me to.' And that was the end of it. I haven't heard anything about it since."

Swap with Gee allows Niese extra recovery time

PHILADELPHIA -- Given the luxury of an off-day last week, the Mets flopped Jon Niese and Dillon Gee in the rotation to give Niese more time to recover from some minor muscle tightness.

Tweaking his right side on a swing last week in San Diego, Niese slid back one day and will now face the Phillies on Tuesday, with Gee moving up to pitch Monday at Citizens Bank Park. The move was nothing more than a precaution, and the Mets expect Niese to make his Tuesday start at full strength.

"He's fine," manager Terry Collins said.

Mets will give Duda an early look in right field

PHILADELPHIA -- The Lucas Duda Experiment will begin Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, when Mets manager Terry Collins pencils Duda's name onto his lineup card in right field. It is an alignment that the Mets will use regularly in September, in an effort to prime Duda for a potential starting gig in right field next season.

"We need to start taking a look down the road and what our options are going to be," Collins said. "If Lucas Duda is going to be our option in right field, I want to get him out there a little bit."

Though it may be a slow transition at first, the Mets will start Duda regularly in right field once rosters expand on Sept. 1, with the hope that he may ultimately break camp as the starter next spring.

Initially, the Mets hesitated to make the move given a lack of substitute options at first base. But with the Mets sliding further out of first place, Collins has warmed to the idea of moving Duda to the outfield and giving Nick Evans -- typically a platoon player, given his .168 career average against right-handed pitchers -- regular time at first.

"Nick Evans is a guy that's hit at every level he's ever been at, and when he gets to the Major Leagues he doesn't get much playing time," Collins said. "Maybe it's time to get him in there."