Church return possible for Mets' series this weekend

NEW YORK -- Ryan Church could be back in the New York Mets' outfield for the opener of a four-game series against the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Church has been sidelined by post-concussion syndrome since he left a game on July 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies due to dizziness -- six days after he came off the DL. He missed most of June following a May 20 concussion, his second in less than three months.

Church went 0-for-4 and played nine innings in right field in a rehab game with Double-A Binghamton on Thursday night.

"He's healthy, playing well, obviously getting the at-bats that he needs," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said before New York's 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night. "And he hasn't had any setbacks. So, with all those things being said, if he does have another good night he'll be playing right field [Friday] night."

Second baseman Luis Castillo (strained left hip flexor) played for Binghamton on Wednesday night, and went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Manuel said Castillo will work out in front of Mets coaches on Friday, and a decision on his status will be made in the coming days.

"I haven't seen him in a long time, but basically baseball shape, baseball ready," Manuel said when asked what he's looking for with Castillo. "Just kind of talk to him and see where he is also mentally."

The return of Church and Castillo would be a boost for New York, which has won nine of 10 and leads the NL East by 2½ games over Philadelphia. Church is batting .307 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 57 games this season.

Manuel said Church could get some extra days off to ease him back into the regular lineup.

"He was a very good player for us for a while, a very good player -- probably our best player for a period of time," Manuel said. "I would like to see him get back to that level. That would be a great, great addition to us."

Manuel said rookies Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy would continue to get most of the starts in left, and Fernando Tatis could spell Church in right. Tatis, who has come up with big hits this year, went 1-for-4 in Thursday's win and is batting .297 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs.

"Obviously when you head down the stretch, if you have three to choose from, two or three to choose from, you've just got to go with [who] you think is hotter, what's a good matchup," Manuel said.