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09/09/09 12:59 AM ET

Beltran's comeback creates good problem

New York (62-76) vs. Florida (73-65), 7:10 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- Now that center field is back in the capable glove of Carlos Beltran, determining playing time in left field has become a little more muddled for manager Jerry Manuel.

Angel Pagan made a statement with his play in center field and in the leadoff spot in Beltran's absence, batting .295 with six homers, eight triples and 10 doubles. Pagan is hitting .301 on the season.

At the same time, Cory Sullivan has been the Mets' hottest hitter of late, with seven hits and two home runs in 17 September at-bats. Sullivan has also played a sparkling left field.

While Pagan got the start in left and led off again on Tuesday, Manuel said Sullivan will see some playing time.

"That's going to be a challenge with the fact that those guys have played on a regular basis," Manuel said. "It kind of becomes a situation where, if you're winning, you stay with one. Or if it comes down to a situation where a matchup fits one better than the other, you go with that."

It won't be as big a challenge for Manuel over the next week or so, since he plans to rest Beltran once a series. That allows Pagan to shift back to center once every three days. Manuel said he would later rest Beltran once every four days, and then decide on a plan of action from there.

Left field has been a bit of a revolving door for the Mets all season. Daniel Murphy entered the season as the everyday left fielder, but defensive struggles and a right hip injury for first baseman Carlos Delgado forced the Mets to move Murphy to the infield after 22 starts in left. Gary Sheffield has received the bulk of the work with 44 starts in left, but he's been prone to injuries himself, including back pain that may keep him out the rest of the year.

Fernando Tatis (18 starts), Fernando Martinez (10), Nick Evans (seven) and Jeremy Reed (six) have also seen time in left this year. Sullivan has given the position a little consistency, starting nine of the Mets' past 11 games there and batting .313 in that stretch.

However Manuel arranges his outfield, it should be stellar defensively. Beltran and right fielder Jeff Francoeur have each won Gold Gloves, and Pagan and Sullivan have each shown impressive range in patrolling their respective positions over the past two months.

Defensive range has become more important to the Mets this season, their first at Citi Field. The team recently shifted their outfielders more into the gaps to try to limit extra-base hits. To do that, the team needs outfielders with a certain amount of speed.

"We have come to somewhat of the conclusion that on defense, at least in the outfield, speed has to be a priority," Manuel said. "To cover what we need to cover, we need speed."

Pitching matchup
NYM: LHP Pat Misch (1-1, 3.25 ERA)
Misch was quasi-masterful in his second start of the season, taming the Rockies and Coors Field on Thursday when he pitched seven innings of two-run ball to gain his first career victory in his 13th career start. His first 6 2/3 innings were scoreless. He had allowed two hits before he surrendered successive bases-empty home runs. Misch has allowed three runs in his past 18 innings (three appearances). Left-handed hitters (.286 batting average, .335 on-base average and .411 slugging percentage) have been more productive against him than right-handed hitters (.234, .315 and .338). He has appeared in 21 games -- including two starts, both with the Mets -- and his team has won merely four of them. None of the appearances have come against the Marlins. Jorge Cantu has a single, a double and a home run in four career at-bats against Misch.

FLA: RHP Ricky Nolasco (10-8, 5.27 ERA)
Nolasco held the Braves to three runs on seven hits over six innings while striking out seven Thursday. He avoided a big inning when he pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth after allowing two runs. The Marlins have win six of Nolasco's nine most recent starts; he's won four and lost one in that period. In two starts (10 innings) against the Mets this season, he has a loss, a no-decision and a 7.20 ERA. Nolasco has allowed 20 home runs in his 152 innings, 12 by left-handed hitters. David Wright has a .419 average and three home runs in 31 career at-bats against him.

Prior to the game, the Mets called up right-hander Tobi Stoner from Triple-A Buffalo, where Stoner was 7-7 with a 3.96 ERA. ... Wednesday night will be Free Hot Dog Night at Citi Field, where all fans will receive a coupon for one free Nathan's hot dog. ... Pagan extended his hitting streak to eight games with a third-inning single. Pagan added a triple in the fifth -- his ninth three-bagger of the year, all of which have come since July 11. The nine triples are good for third in the National League, two behind both the Phillies' Shane Victorino and the Astros' Michael Bourn. ... Luis Castillo's fifth-inning infield single gave him 38 infield hits on the year, tied for tops in the NL with Bourn. Castillo is batting .456 at Citi Field since August 2 (18 games) and leads the NL with a .369 average at home for the season.

This date in Mets history -- Sept. 9
The Mets played the first of the eight ties in their history on this date in 1962. A 7 p.m. CT curfew on a Sunday forced an end to their game against the Colt 45's at Colt Stadium in Houston with the score tied at 7 after eight innings. ... A second successive victory against the deflated Cubs, this one a 7-1 thrashing by a team of modest offensive means, put the '69 Mets a half-game out of first place on this date. The loss was the sixth of eight in a row suffered by the soon to be runner-up Cubs. Tom Seaver outpitched Ferguson Jenkins, and Donn Clendenon and Art Shamsky hit home runs.

Four years later on this date, the Mets were outhit, 13-5, but defeated the Expos, 3-0, in Parc Jarry to move into a tie for fourth place in the NL East. George Stone allowed 11 singles and a walk in 7 2/3 innings. The Mets turned two double plays with Willie Mays playing first base. ... On this date in 1999, the Revenge of the Former Dodgers produced a 3-1 Mets victory in Los Angeles. Orel Hershiser pitched eight innings, and Mike Piazza hit his 34th home run of the season. The Mets trailed the first-place Braves by three games.

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Up next
• Thursday: Mets (Bobby Parnell, 3-7, 5.25) vs. Marlins (Sean West, 6-5, 4.61), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Friday: Mets (Nelson Figueroa, 2-4, 4.74) at Phillies (Cole Hamels, 8-9, 4.32), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 10-10, 4.83) at Phillies (J.A. Happ, 10-4, 2.77), 4:05 p.m. ET

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.