NEW YORK -- For the time being, rookie Mike Baxter has found a home at the top of the Mets' starting lineup against right-handed pitchers. After manager Terry Collins talked about shortstop Ronny Cedeno seeing time in the leadoff spot on Thursday, the surging Baxter found his name at the top of the lineup card Friday for the third time in the last four games.
"I've been very, very pleased with what I've seen out of Mike," Collins said. "Coming into Spring Training, he knew the job was available. He started out in Spring Training to win the job. He shortened his swing up. He doesn't have a lot of moving parts to his swing."
Baxter is batting .379 in May and nearly hit for the cycle in the Mets' 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday. Baxter's torrid streak earned him the leadoff spot in the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh. He went 2-for-8 with two runs scored in those games, as the Mets won both contests.
Before Tuesday, Baxter had never batted leadoff in the Major Leagues. He hit in the first spot in the order in college and in the Minor Leagues for the Padres' organization.
"Ultimately it just falls on having good quality at-bats," Baxter said. "You want to see pitches, but you also want to get on base. So if you get on base early in the count with a good pitch to hit, get it, but it's good if you can work a seven- or eight-pitch at-bat so everyone can kind of get a look."
Baxer's initial role with the team was as a situational pinch-hitter, but he's earned further playing time as the season has progressed. On Friday, Collins called Baxter's evolution this season "truly amazing." His .431 OBP is second on the team only to David Wright.
"It's nice to be in the lineup and it's nice to get at-bats," Baxter said. "I'm not ever going to get too caught up with where I am in the lineup or if I'm starting or not starting, because I think that's what has made this team pretty successful this year."
Mets giving Hefner another turn in rotation
NEW YORK -- The Mets are in wait-and-see mode regarding the fifth spot in their starting rotation. Manager Terry Collins said Friday that Jeremy Hefner has done enough to start again in place of Miguel Batista, who went on the disabled list with a lower back strain last week.
Hefner, a former fifth-round Draft pick, pitched into the fourth inning of his first start Thursday in an outing that was interrupted by a rain delay. His next rotation turn will come up Tuesday against the Phillies, and Collins said that the Mets would re-evaluate his role when they have more information about Batista.
"I would think Jeremy Hefner would get the next start," he said. "The one after that, we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully Miguel is well enough. Miguel has pitched very well, but that fifth slot has gotten to where we've spent our bullpen. We're asking these guys to do stuff that they're really not comfortable doing, but that's just the nature of the game right now when you've got to eat up some innings."
The Mets been forced to look for another starter due to the season-ending injury to Mike Pelfrey, and Batista has posted a 1-1 record and a 4.00 ERA in four turns through the rotation.
The Mets have Chris Young working back from shoulder surgery, and he will pitch in a rehab game for Class A Port St. Lucie Thursday night. Young will need at least a few more starts, which leaves Hefner -- who went 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Buffalo -- as the best option.
"It's two-fold," said Collins. "Number one, in the first inning, he showed us very good stuff. He showed us great command of all three of his pitches. I do believe the rain delay affected him more than he'd let on, but the times out of the bullpen he's shown that he can be effective if he throws strikes. We just figured, give him another shot, because right now you've got to rearrange the roster again.
"You've got to start taking guys off, and each and every time you bring a guy up who's not on the roster, you take a chance of losing somebody. We're trying to avoid that if we can."
Egbert freshens 'pen; Mets option Carson
NEW YORK -- The Mets made a move to get a fresh arm in their bullpen on Friday, when they optioned left-hander Robert Carson to Double-A Binghamton and purchased the contract of reliever Jack Egbert. Egbert, a former 13th-round Draft pick, has pitched in just two big league games.
The right-hander had a 2-3 record and a 2.08 ERA in 16 appearances for Triple-A Buffalo, and he said that he's responded well to his first full season of pitching out of the bullpen. Egbert, a Staten Island native and an alumnus of Rutgers, said he's ready to work multiple innings for the Mets.
"I'm going to try to be ready for anything out there," he said. "I've started pretty much throughout my career, but a couple times this year I've gotten up to three innings. I probably could've gone a little more in some of those situations. I just think they didn't want to stretch me out too much more."
The Mets have seen their bullpen blow nine saves -- tied for the second most in the Majors -- and post a 5.18 ERA, the highest of any big league team. Manager Terry Collins said that Egbert, 29 years old, will give the Mets a long relief contingency plan in case any of the starters stumble.
"He's a guy who's a multiple-inning pitcher. He's a two or three inning guy, which is all you really need your long man to do in the National League," said Collins. "Sinker, slider, change. The sinker's a very good pitch for him. He's an experienced guy and he's been around. I know he pitched last night -- a couple innings -- but he can give us two more tonight if need be."
Mets' Tejada testing wheels in Florida
NEW YORK -- Manager Terry Collins gave an update on injured shortstop Ruben Tejada, who went through a baserunning session Friday. Collins said Tejada still has room for progress.
"The baserunning session was just so-so today," Collins said. "I wouldn't say it's a setback, it's just not a big step forward."
Tejada, who is hitting .305 this season in 27 games, went on the disabled list May 8 with a strained right quadriceps. He's currently in extended spring camp in Florida.
Ronny Cedeno has been his main replacement, with Justin Turner filling in at shortstop as well. Cedeno is hitting .254 with seven RBIs thus far in 2012.
Collins said Tejada is getting extended spring at-bats, and once his legs are fresh enough, he'll return to the Mets' lineup.
"When Ruben gets back, if he's swinging like he's capable of, he's going to be the shortstop," Collins said. "I think that when the running side is what they want it to be, it might not be very many games [until he returns]."
Collins harped on how the everyday reps will help later for Cedeno, who has bounced around the league in his seven-year career. Last year, Turner flourished after a similar opportunity for the oft-injured Mets, hitting .260 with 51 RBIs in 117 games.
Turner played both second base and third base in 2011 while Jose Reyes and David Wright sat out with injuries. He's started twice at shortstop this season in place of Tejada.
"I think one of the things that's going to help Ronny is the fact that he's playing a lot right now," Collins said. "And we can go back to what we saw last year, when Justin Turner was in the lineup every day. And then all of a sudden -- when Jose was back, Ruben was back and David was back -- he became an extra player and was dynamic off the bench. Big hits. And I think we might see that out of Ronny also."
Jason Bay continues to work back from a rib injury, but the Mets are going to hold him to batting practice for now. "He's not going to play in a game defensively until that rib heals, because we know he's going to crash into the wall and we know he's going to dive for fly balls," said Terry Collins.
The Mets hope that catcher Josh Thole, working back from a concussion, will be able to catch five innings in an extended spring game for the first time on Monday.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. Ethan Asofsky and Chris Branch are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.