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Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Nickeas flu may lead to catching move

By Adam Rubin

Mike Nickeas is back at the team hotel, not at the ballpark, in Houston because of a severe case of the flu -- the same illness that also has sidelined Lucas Duda. Because Nickeas' strain is so severe, the Mets were expecting to fly in a catcher from Triple-A Buffalo, Vinny Rottino or Lucas May, to at least have on standby on the newly created taxi squad.

Josh Thole is starting against Astros left-hander J.A. Happ, which is not an issue, since Thole is hitting .429 (6-for-14) against southpaws this season. Houston also is throwing a left-hander, Wandy Rodriguez, in the series finale Wednesday afternoon.

Mike Baxter is the Mets' emergency catcher on Tuesday night should Thole be forced to leave the game. Baxter, attempting to become a more-versatile utility player, spent the fall instructional league in 2008 with the San Diego Padres working behind the plate. He even has a catcher's glove, although not on the road with him.

"I have one at home," he said. "I didn't bring it."

Rottino, 32, is hitting .315 with one homer in 92 at-bats with Buffalo. Because of other Triple-A needs, he has played exclusively in left field this season -- although he was supposed to be in Monday's Buffalo lineup behind the plate before the game was rained out. May, 27, is hitting .196 with three homers in 51 at-bats with the Bisons.

The most experienced option, Rob Johnson, landed on the disabled list last week with Buffalo because of a left knee sprain.

Terry Collins said Ronny Cedeno (intercostal muscle strain on left side) should be ready to return from the disabled list near when he is eligible on Sunday. The manager said he does not like roster fill-in Jordany Valdespin to sit so much -- he's had only five at-bats. But, Collins added, the lack of playing time is largely unavoidable given the outfield depth and Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy's importance to the lineup. Cedeno has been swinging and taking grounders and should ramp up his activity later this week, including likely in minor league games.

• Closer Frank Francisco, who was dealing with an upper hamstring issue, is available Tuesday, Collins said.

Mike Pelfrey underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday in Gulf Breeze, Fla. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure.

• Former manager Art Howe, who does broadcasting work for the Astros, visited the Mets clubhouse pregame. David Wright, the lone remaining Met to have played for Howe, sought out his former skipper. Howe also visited the coaches' office. Like Howe, Bob Geren and Dave Hudgens have ties to the A's.