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04/13/08 2:45 PM ET

Sanchez's return to Mets looks close

Reliever clears hurdle of pitching in back-to-back contests

NEW YORK -- Decisions loom for the Mets, perhaps as soon as this week.

Duaner Sanchez pitched a perfect inning of relief for Triple-A New Orleans on Saturday night in his second appearance in as many games. That marked the first time Sanchez had pitched in back-to-back games this season, clearing the way for him to rejoin the Major League club. For weeks, the Mets had considered that his final hurdle.

They won't promote Sanchez right away, opting instead to see how his body responds after the work -- and perhaps even giving him another appearance or two with the Zephyrs. But Mets manager Willie Randolph made it clear that he expects Sanchez by early next week at the latest, and possibly even within the next few days.

The Mets' bullpen, though improved in recent days, could still use the help.

"When you get a guy like him throwing the way he was throwing before he hurt himself, and you put him into your bullpen, it's definitely going to be a domino effect as far as helping the whole bullpen," Randolph said. "Anytime you can put a fresh arm out there, a quality arm, it sets everybody up better. It just injects a certain energy into your bullpen. I'm hoping that's the case."

Most likely, the Mets would option the last man in their bullpen, Carlos Muniz, back to Triple-A to make room for Sanchez. Those plans could change if shortstop Jose Reyes needs more time to heal from his left hamstring strain, forcing the Mets to dip into the Minor Leagues for a middle infielder -- Anderson Hernandez, most likely.

Roster machinations aside, pardon Randolph if he's a bit eager to see Sanchez again. It's been a year and a half since his former setup man has pitched in a Major League game, and though Randolph said he would be careful to ease Sanchez back into his role -- a return to eighth-inning duties would not be imminent -- some expectations remain.

"You think about where he was and where he might be -- you don't know," Randolph said. "But if he's close to where he was, it's going to be pretty nice to add someone like that to the bullpen."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.