PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Early in his career, Mike Pelfrey used to keep his glove in front of his chest as he began his windup, allowing him to more easily throw his pitches on a downward plane. He abandoned that practice a few years ago with declining degrees of success, entering the windup with his hands no higher than his belt.

Now, Pelfrey is mimicking his old mechanics to a new extreme. Taking this week's bullpen experiment into Saturday's game against the Cardinals, Pelfrey began raising his glove all the way to the top of his head at the apex of his windup.

"It was easier to get on top of the sinker by doing that," Pelfrey said. "I thought it was great the other day in the 'pen, and it's something that we'll keep working on."

The practice is hardly unique, used by Roy Halladay, Mat Latos and many of the game's other tallest pitchers. Still others, such as CC Sabathia and Josh Johnson, at least hold their gloves up near their chests when pitching from the windup.

Though a few pitches up in the zone still victimized him in Saturday's 6-6 tie with the Cardinals, Pelfrey cited his new mechanics while speaking optimistically about that outing.

"The ball came out great," Pelfrey said. "I felt free and easy. I thought it was a huge step."

Torres' status for opener concerning Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Andres Torres' slow recovery from a left calf strain has the Mets concerned about his availability for Opening Day and scrambling to identify potential replacements.

General manager Sandy Alderson called the center fielder "touch and go" for Opening Day, with manager Terry Collins noting that "he's not a whole lot better." Torres has done nothing but receive treatment in the five days since straining his calf in a game against the Nationals.

Complicating matters is that backup center fielder Scott Hairston also remains sidelined, despite significant recent progress in his rehab from a strained left oblique muscle. The news on Hairston is a bit more optimistic: He plans to take live batting practice Sunday for the first time since his injury, giving the Mets reasonable hope that he will be ready to play come Opening Day.

But the team remains concerned about Torres.

"It's a pretty big piece of the puzzle," Collins said. "We got him to fill a pretty big void for us. With him being out, out of the gate and with Scott hurt, we're going to scramble."

Even if both Torres and Hairston are not ready to go by April 5, Alderson said the Mets will still carry a natural center fielder on their Opening Day roster. That means that either Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis would make the team, despite questions surrounding both of them.

Widely considered the best defensive center fielder in camp, den Dekker produced massive strikeout totals at Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton last summer, leading the Mets to believe he is not ready for a Major League assignment at age 24. And Nieuwenhuis, who has also never played in the Majors, is battling a right oblique strain after missing more than half of last season following left shoulder surgery.

Still, the Mets will carry one of those two for defensive insurance if both Torres and Hairston are not healthy come April 5. Nieuwenhuis is the team's preference, due to his experience and the fact that he is already on the 40-man roster. But the Mets would consider den Dekker if necessary.

"We want to have a center fielder when we go north," Alderson said.

To that end, if Hairston is healthy, it would solve a number of problems. His experience as a big league center fielder would allow the Mets to focus more on offense with the final spots on their bench, carrying Mike Baxter, Adam Loewen or even Jordany Valdespin as a backup.

Baxter and Loewen are the most polished of the three, with the former offering better contact skills, and the latter more power. But Valdespin, an infield prospect by nature, has also intrigued the Mets with his performances in camp, leading them to experiment with him in center.

Wright progresses, getting closer to return

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Another full day of workouts has David Wright inching toward a return.

The Mets third baseman participated in a complete morning of baseball drills Saturday for the third consecutive day, and he could begin tracking live pitching off a mound as early as Sunday. That, along with full batting practice, are the final prerequisites that Wright must fill before appearing in a game.

It could come sooner rather than later. Though Wright continued to reveal few details of his upcoming schedule, his manager offered a more accurate glimpse of when he might return from a strained left abdominal muscle.

"I'd love to see David by Tuesday, for sure," Terry Collins said.