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08/20/08 6:55 PM ET

Church will return as outfield backup

Manuel says team is 'confident' in current corner positions

NEW YORK -- When Ryan Church returns later this year -- if he returns later this year -- he may find a foreign situation awaiting him. Mets manager Jerry Manuel noted that much Wednesday, confirming that Church will no longer be his starting right fielder.

"When he does come back, we don't have to rely heavily on him playing every single day," Manuel said. "We feel very confident in the young players we have in left field, and also [Fernando] Tatis in right."

That's no slight of Church, but instead a recognition of Tatis, who has filled in admirably as the Mets' starting right fielder. Though Manuel does have the option of flipping Tatis to left field and starting Church regularly in right, he said he did not want to break up the current left-field platoon of rookies Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy.

"I feel very good about what they have done, and how well they have played," Manuel said.

Such speculation, of course, hinges upon Church actually returning. He has now played in six rehab games over three Minor League levels, and on Wednesday bounced from Triple-A New Orleans to Double-A Binghamton, in order to avoid the hassle of Minor League travel.

In 57 games serving mostly as the Mets' starting right fielder, Church produced a .307 average and 10 home runs, and was one of the more critical components of the team's early-season offense. But a concussion in late May -- his second in the span of three months -- has kept him planted on the disabled list for the better part of this summer.

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