PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Former top prospect Jenrry Mejia took a brief but significant step Thursday in his road back from Tommy John surgery, throwing an abridged bullpen session in front of Mets coaches and staff. It was Mejia's first mound work since undergoing his operation last May.

"I was happy to see him on the mound today," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I thought his arm was good and loose."

Though Mejia is unlikely to rejoin the Mets until late this season at the earliest, Collins said those plans could change if he can prove both his health and command. The right-hander is just one year removed from ranking among the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

"Sometimes, you can't stop people," Collins said. "They force their way."

Ike cleared after lung infection

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- First baseman Ike Davis returned to Mets camp on Thursday, unconcerned about the lung infection that doctors discovered on his impromptu trip to New York. He has been cleared to resume all activities.

"I didn't even know I had it," Davis said of his infection. "It was out of the blue."

After doctors noticed something out of the ordinary following Davis' physical last week, the first baseman flew back to New York for additional testing. That revealed the lung infection, which is not even serious enough for doctors to prescribe Davis antibiotics.

Davis said he has experienced no symptoms of the infection but will likely undergo a follow-up examination later this spring.

"I don't feel sick," Davis said. "Honestly, I feel fine."

Davis, who missed the final four months of last season with a bone bruise in his left ankle, was batting .302 with seven homers in 36 games prior to his injury.

Santana has another productive mound session

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Bullpen session No. 3 came and went Thursday with no ill effects for Johan Santana, who threw another mound session on his way toward his Opening Day assignment.

"That's another bullpen session where I felt a little improvement," said Santana, now more than 17 months removed from left shoulder surgery. "I felt really good."

Santana will throw at least two more bullpen sessions before pitching a round of live batting practice late next week. The Mets intend to hold him out from their planned intrasquad scrimmages next weekend, in advance of his starting their Grapefruit League opener against the Nationals on March 5.

Beltran to keep word, pay for Niese's surgery

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran fully intends to pay up after offering to finance former teammate Jon Niese's rhinoplasty last year.

"I did get the bill," Beltran said Thursday at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla. "I'm waiting to go there and give it to him personally."

Niese revealed earlier this week that he underwent a rhinoplasty reconstruction operation at the behest of Beltran, who offered to pay for the procedure if Niese actually went through with it. The Mets left-hander did precisely that in October, crediting the operation for improving his breathing and allowing him to shed 10 pounds through extra cardiovascular work this winter.

Beltran, who estimated the cost of the procedure at $10,000, said he will pay Niese when the Mets and Cardinals meet later this spring. Though Beltran said he never encouraged Niese to undergo the operation, he did agree to finance it if Niese did it on his own.

"He came to me the day after the conversation and said, 'Are you sure you're going to pay for it?'" Beltran recalled. "I said, 'I'll pay for it. I'm not sure if you're going to do it, but if you do it, I'll pay for it.'"

Collins among many inspired by Knicks' Lin

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Count the Mets among those intrigued by the rise of Jeremy Lin and the Knicks.

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, general manager Sandy Alderson, assistant GM John Ricco and manager Terry Collins traveled south on Thursday to watch the underdog Knicks square off against the Miami Heat, who hold the NBA's best record. Collins, in particular, has taken an interest in the rise of Lin, an undrafted player out of Harvard who has recently attained mega-celebrity status in New York City.

"I'm kind of caught up in it," Collins said. "Here's a guy who was days from being released, days from quitting, emotionally strung out, finally got his chance and absolutely said, 'I'm not coming out. This is my chance and I'm making the most of it.' It's what we tell every player at every level, no matter how good they are."

Also planning to attend the game is former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, now with the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.

"I hope I'm sitting behind him so I can throw popcorn down his shirt," Collins quipped.

Byrdak starting spring a little bit lower

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Byrdak holds the distinction this spring of being the Mets' only left-handed reliever with a guaranteed job. His presence in Spring Training has thus far been notable for two other reasons.

First, Byrdak arrived at the team's complex Thursday with his horseshoe mustache bleached blond to mimic that of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. Second, Byrdak threw his daily bullpen session from a new arm slot, dropping down to a near-sidearm angle.

Traditionally, Byrdak's arm slot tends to creep up throughout Spring Training as he begins building arm strength. To combat that this year, the lefty specialist is starting lower than ever so that when his arm angle does begin elevating, it will not creep up to an extreme overhand slot.

"I know it's going to go up," Byrdak said. "So if I go a little bit lower and I come up, I'm right where I want to be."

Byrdak says he pitched the entire 1999 season with the Royals from a sidearm slot, but has not done so regularly for more than a decade. Like right-handed teammate D.J. Carrasco, Byrdak is capable of pitching from multiple arm angles if necessary.

"Occasionally I'll drop down," he said. "It's a different look."