Matthews could play way into Game 3

Gary Matthews Jr. will have a chance to get a third straight start in center field Thursday if he has a solid game Wednesday against the Florida Marlins. Still, manager Jerry Manuel expects a reasonably equitable distribution of playing time between Angel Pagan and Matthews in Carlos Beltran's absence.

"We've got, obviously, a very long ways to go," Manuel said. "I'm going to give each guy an opportunity to play. I'm going to give them an opportunity to play consecutive games. ... I'm going to go with what's working at the time."

If Matthews remains in the lineup Thursday, look for Luis Castillo to lead off, followed by Ruben Tejada batting second in the 20-year-old shortstop's first major-league start. Facing lefthander Nate Robertson, Manuel then is likely to stack righty hitters David Wright and Jason Bay in the Nos. 3-4 slots. Fernando Tatis should start at first base over Mike Jacobs.

SATURDAY IN THE PARK: Manuel confirmed Jose Reyes should be at Citi Field on Saturday, when he is eligible to return from the disabled list. "Barring setbacks, I anticipate that," the manager said. "The physical condition part has gone extremely well. He's getting enough at-bats. We'll do another evaluation Thursday."

LONG LEASH: Convinced John Maine is healthy after two seasons of shoulder issues, the Mets won't have a strict pitch restriction on the righthander. Maine is expected to reach the 100-pitch plateau if he's performing well Wednesday, like his teammates in the rotation the first turn through.

SPECIAL LEFTY: Oliver Perez will be available in the bullpen, although he will only be used in an extreme circumstance -- a short night by Maine or a lengthy extra-inning contest. Perez's first start doesn't come until Game 5 opposite Washington Nationals lefthander John Lannan on Saturday.