ATLANTA -- The Mets continue to proceed cautiously with injured outfielder Andres Torres, who has not attempted to run since straining his left calf on Opening Day.
"He's getting close," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "He's getting antsy. But we're really trying, based on the Spring Training experience, to hold him back."
Ricco's comments were in reference to the final week of spring, when Torres battled back from an identical calf injury to break camp with the team. But he re-injured the muscle on Opening Day, and has not made much progress since.
Working out Monday at the team's Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Torres hit off a tee, took soft-toss swings and played catch, and is scheduled to perform the same routine on Tuesday. A return before May seems unlikely.
Without him, the Mets have been proceeding with shortstop Ruben Tejada as their leadoff hitter. But Tejada has cooled somewhat after a torrid start, prompting manager Terry Collins to pencil his shortstop in for an off-day on Thursday.
"We're trying to make sure that we keep our guys as fresh as we can," Collins said.
Bay homers, robs one in return to lineup
ATLANTA -- After the latest victim of a finger injury thrived in his first game back, Mets manager Terry Collins joked that the rest of his team was outside diving into bases, trying to jam their own fingers.
Like David Wright before him, Jason Bay seemed better off after injuring his finger, robbing a home run and hitting one of his own Monday in his first game back.
"That's Jason Bay," manager Terry Collins said. "Nobody's more frustrated with the lack of production than Jason Bay is. But when you're the manager of a team or a teammate, you know that guy's going out there and playing his heart out every night."
That surfaced most visibly in the fifth inning, when Bay leaped to rob former Pirates teammate Jack Wilson of a solo home run -- almost an identical catch to the one he made against Alex Gonzalez at Turner Field last September.
Four innings later, Bay homered to deep center.
"I just had a tough time getting my finger around the bat yesterday," Bay said before the game. "With the swelling down, it's a little sore, which is to be expected. But soreness, you can handle. Not being able to grip the bat was kind of a pain."
But it was no more an issue for Bay than for Wright, who fractured his right pinkie last Monday and missed three games, then hit a home run in his first at-bat back. Collins inserted Bay back into the fifth spot in the lineup, where the left fielder has struggled throughout the young season. In seven prior games batting out of that slot, Bay hit .174 with nine strikeouts in 23 at-bats.
Entering Monday's play, Bay was averaging one strikeout every 2.82 plate appearances, the worst rate in the National League. He was also walking in less than 10 percent of his plate appearances for the first time since 2007.
Mets unconcerned with Johan's pitch count
ATLANTA -- Now that Johan Santana has stretched out his arm over two regular-season starts, the Mets are no longer overly concerned with the left-hander's pitch count. Santana could throw as many as 115 pitches against the Braves on Tuesday, depending on how the game unfolds.
"We're more concerned tomorrow with weather than we are with anything else," manager Terry Collins said.
And that is a legitimate worry. Thunderstorms are forecast for downtown Atlanta throughout the early portion of this week, reaching their highest probability during Tuesday's late afternoon hours. That could create a messy situation for Santana, who may have to take the mound for an inning or two, then stop.
But no matter what the forecast, Collins said, he will not scratch Santana from his start.
"What I want to do is hopefully get some innings out of him," the manager said.
Though Collins allows most of his pitchers to come back from rain delays as long as they are less than 60 minutes, he would be wary in extending Santana's rope longer than a half hour. Anything beyond that could present an unnecessary risk for Santana, who is 19 months removed from left-shoulder surgery.
"Some guys, if it's the second or third inning, a lot of those guys will say, 'I'm fine. I'll come back,'" Collins said. "And he will say that, too. No doubt in my mind. I just probably won't bring him back."
It is one of the few restrictions still in place for Santana, whose maximum pitch count will rise from around 105 in his second start to 115 in Tuesday's game. Even before tearing his left anterior shoulder capsule in Sept. 2010, Santana almost never lasted longer than that in games, throwing more than 115 pitches once each year in 2009 and 2010.
"A lot of it depends upon how he's done," Collins said of Santana's pitch count. "Has he had to pitch out of jams? Has there been a big inning he's had to get through?"
Santana threw 84 and 99 pitches in his first two starts, respectively. His highest total during Spring Training was 88.
Chipper to be acknowledged by Mets
ATLANTA -- With this being Chipper Jones' final season, New York City's radio airwaves have buzzed recently with talk of the Mets honoring Jones during his final trip to Queens. The team has stated that it will acknowledge Jones and his reputation as the foremost Mets killer in team history, but will not greet him with any lavish sort of ceremony. Jones understands that.
"I'm not expecting anything," Atlanta's longtime third baseman told reporters Monday. "But anything would be appreciated."
Jones is best known in New York for his 48 career home runs in 231 games against the Mets, quite a few of them coming in critical spots. Jones named his third-born son Shea, after his career success at Shea Stadium, and purchased a pair of seats when the Mets demolished the stadium after the 2008 season.
"It's no secret, my relationship with the fans of New York," Jones said. "They don't let you forget. That's the way it should be."