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09/28/08 1:27 PM ET

Relief corps rested after Johan's effort

Shutout allows bullpen to be ready with NL Wild Card on line

NEW YORK -- Johan Santana won't pitch Sunday -- that much is certain. But his effects will still be felt at Shea Stadium, where the Mets will proceed in a noticeably stronger position, thanks almost entirely to Santana's Saturday efforts.

By pitching a shutout, Santana not only drew the Mets back into a National League Wild Card tie with the Brewers, but also kept a questionable bullpen fully intact.

"Johan saved a lot of guys," manager Jerry Manuel said.

And so every one of the Mets' core bullpen people will be available in relief of Oliver Perez, set to start Sunday's game on three days' rest. Mike Pelfrey, who started Friday, is also available for an inning if needed -- but only one inning, Manuel said, and only if the Mets have exhausted most other options.

Pedro Martinez is not available, because the Mets are saving him for Monday's potential one-game playoff against the Brewers. And so Manuel said he would turn to either Brandon Knight, Nelson Figueroa or rookie Jon Niese in long relief.

"One thing we'll probably do is send everybody to the bullpen early," Manuel said.

There's only so much the Mets can do for a bullpen that ranks 22nd in the Major Leagues with a 4.25 ERA, and that has blown 29 saves on the season. But every healthy arm can help -- and the Mets, if nothing else, are healthy.

Manuel did say that he won't necessary turn to Luis Ayala, the acting closer, if a save situation presents itself. Instead, he'll play the matchup game, which might not make much of a difference considering the Marlins' predominantly right-handed lineup.

"We'll match up," Manuel said. "But I would think that Ayala will be a big part of that matchup."

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