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04/22/08 2:33 PM ET

Mets making do with bumps, bruises

Castillo among walking wounded, but playing well on bad knee

CHICAGO -- No one's calling them the hobblin' Mets just yet, but the reality is, they're so black and blue, they could paint "Mets" on their chests and no one would notice.

Second baseman Luis Castillo got a day off as he deals with residual soreness in his surgically repaired right knee; catcher Brian Schneider sat again with a deep forearm bruise; outfielder Ryan Church sat for the first time with "nicks here and there," according to manager Willie Randolph, and Moises Alou, one of seven on the disabled list, is still rehabbing in Florida.

Carlos Beltran has dealt with a stiff neck recently and still isn't 100 percent from a cleanup surgery on both of his knees last October. He's hitting .226 with one home run and nine RBIs in the cleanup spot and was in the lineup Tuesday.

"You can't always be 100 percent," Randolph said. "You can't always be strong. We've got a lot of guys out there playing banged up, this and that. They're out there playing every day."

Well, unless they're not. But you get his point.

Castillo returned to the Mets lineup in mid-March and reported little to no pain in his knee after getting it cleaned out in October. But he missed three games during the second week of the season with soreness. With a day game following a night game and a trip to Washington on Tuesday night, Randolph said this was a good time rest him. Castillo will continue to get a day off about once a week, Randolph said, but he thinks Castillo will build up more strength in his knees by playing as the season goes on.

"It's a matter of getting his strength back into it," Randolph said. "It wasn't a major surgery. I didn't even think it would take this long, but it has. I'm sure it will get stronger and better. Right now, he's just not moving like he's 100 percent."

But just because Castillo isn't at full strength doesn't mean he isn't doing his job on the field, Randolph said, bristling at a suggestion that Castillo is somehow limited. The 32-year-old is hitting .232 with six runs and four stolen bases in 15 games this season. He got a hit Monday and is hitting .290 over his last eight games.

"He's done an adequate job in what he's doing," Randolph said. "He's swinging the bat, running the bases, getting ground balls. Can he be better at it? Possibly. But there's not one thing he's not doing. He's made all the plays he's needed to make. He stole a base, he's gotten a couple hits."

Schneider was in good spirits in the clubhouse, but sat again as Raul Casanova got the start. His right forearm was still visibly bruised after absorbing a foul tip from Chase Utley on April 19 in Philadelphia, but he hopes to return Wednesday in Washington.

"He's feeling better," Randolph said. "I told him if he's sore, back off a little. He's been feeling pretty good. Hopefully tomorrow he'll be ready to go."

Church was one of three Mets, along with Carlos Delgado and David Wright, to start every game this season, but Randolph felt he needed a day off. The left-handed hitter has been lights-out (11-for-31) against lefty starters this year, making his absence against Ted Lilly noticeable. The switch-hitting ex-Cub Angel Pagan started in right and hit second.

Alou had his second rehab game with St. Lucie scheduled for Tuesday. He went 3-for-3 and played five innings in his first full rehab game in the Florida State League. It's been reported he may return as early as Friday.

"He's getting his work in," Randolph said. "It's almost like Spring Training for him. Whenever he feels 100 percent or close to it, he'll be back. I'm always hoping it's sooner rather than later."

Jon Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.