NEW YORK -- The Mets' starting rotation has far and away exceeded expectations in 2012. The bullpen has stood out, too, but not in a good way.

The worst bullpen in the Majors, which entering Thursday's game held an ERA of 5.11, got a new addition on Thursday from Triple-A Buffalo -- right-hander Pedro Beato.

Beato was 3-2 with a 1.13 ERA in Buffalo this season and in 16 relief appearances surrendered only three earned runs in 24 innings. He was called up after reliever Jeremy Hefner -- who allowed three earned runs in Wednesday's 9-2 loss to Philadelphia -- was optioned to Triple-A.

In the hours before Thursday's series finale, manager Terry Collins had yet to discuss specifically what Beato's role in the bullpen would be, but Collins said that Beato would be "thrown into action" right away.

Beato said he battled issues with arm strength during his stint with the Mets last season -- he appeared in 60 games in 2011 and held an ERA of 4.30 -- but said prior to Thursday's game that it was behind him.

"My velocity stood steady for the most part," he said of his time in Buffalo. "That shows to me that my strength is there and I'm ready to go."

Beato said he'd "taken a look" at how the Mets' bullpen had been faring, but he admitted he was mainly focused on his games in Buffalo. He said his main focus was on doing whatever he can to help turn things around.

"Part of the game is that sometimes it's going to be there and sometimes it's not," he said. "I'm just here to help, be a part of the team and hopefully win ballgames."

La Russa looking beyond stats with Dickey, ASG

NEW YORK -- R.A. Dickey's statistics may give him an advantage when it comes to starting next week's All-Star Game in Kansas City. But such credentials are not all that National League manager Tony La Russa is considering.

"I've given that a lot of thought, but there is an issue about catching him and what spot to use him," La Russa said on a conference call Thursday. "His season has gotten everyone's attention, including our staff's, and we're talking about the best way to win the game with our personnel, and how we use Dickey will be a part of that."

As La Russa intimated, the main issue could be a hesitancy to pair Dickey with the NL's 25-year-old starting catcher, Buster Posey. But pairing Dickey with Yadier Molina, widely considered one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, would mean waiting to use him until the middle innings.

"Dickey could certainly start the game," La Russa said. "But I look at the ... guys that were selected, and each of those guys could make a claim. So as a manager, you have to keep your heart pure and do the best you can for the team over one individual."

Mets manager Terry Collins disagreed to an extent, though Collins -- a member of the NL's coaching staff in Kansas City -- said he would not call La Russa to lobby for his pitcher.

"You walk that thin line," Collins said. "The game means something now. [But] I'm certainly not going to talk to Tony La Russa about strategy. He's one of the best in the game, if not the best in the game. I'm sure he'll have a plan and it will work its way into however he wants to use R.A."

Torres ailing; Nieuwenhuis back in Mets' lineup

NEW YORK -- Just as the Mets received some positive news regarding one half of their center-field platoon, the other half succumbed to injury.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis' right hand injury had healed enough for the Mets to start him Thursday against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels -- but only because Andres Torres, who regularly plays against lefties, was dealing with back pain.

"It was bothering him yesterday," manager Terry Collins said Thursday. "He had some treatment on it, thought he could play with it. Today he woke up worse, which scares me a little bit."

The Mets will evaluate Torres on Thursday and Friday, before deciding whether or not his injury is severe enough for a disabled list stint. Torres, who made two DL trips last season with leg injuries, was also sidelined for nearly a month this year with a strained left calf. He is batting .201 in 59 games, stealing nine bases in 13 attempts but struggling with his running game -- over a four-game series in Los Angeles last weekend, he made four outs on the basepaths.

Torres' absence forced the Mets to counter Hamels with Nieuwenhuis, who had missed two games with inflammation of his right ulnar nerve, which runs down the arm into the hand. Nieuwenhuis said he believes a 2009 operation to remove part of his right hamate bone exposed the nerve, making it susceptible to damage. But he felt markedly better two days after suffering the injury during batting practice.

"It probably sounds worse than it is," Nieuwenhuis said. "I feel good."

The Mets had been platooning Nieuwenhuis and Torres in center, largely because of Nieuwenhuis' extreme offensive splits: a .182/.286/.236 slash line against left-handers, versus a .302/.350/.466 line against righties.

Worth noting

• Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will appear as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman next Wednesday. He will become the first Mets player to appear on the show since David Wright, who has done so multiple times over the past six years; Johan Santana was slated to read Letterman's "Top 10" list last month, but canceled.

• Outfielder Jason Bay is scheduled to fly to Port St. Lucie, Fla. on Friday to ramp up his rehab from a concussion. Bay, who has been working out at Citi Field all week, has been sidelined since June 16. He recently projected the week after the All-Star Game as an optimistic return date.

• Top prospect Matt Harvey has joined Twitter, with the handle @MattHarvey43. Harvey is 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts for Triple-A Buffalo, striking out 102 batters and walking 42 in 98 1/3 innings.

• Chris Schwinden's bizarre month continued Thursday, when the Mets claimed the right-handed pitcher off waivers and assigned him to Buffalo -- 33 days after originally designating him for assignment. In between, Schwinden was claimed and waived by the Blue Jays, Indians and Yankees, appearing in a total of five Minor League games for those three organizations.

• The Mets have released left-handed pitcher Chuck James, who was a fringe candidate to make the team out of Spring Training. A former 11-game winner with the Braves in 2006 and '07, James posted a 4.57 ERA in 18 relief outings for Buffalo.

• The Mets announced Thursday that Merengue Night will return Aug. 24 at Citi Field, with "stars from the world of Merengue music and special guest stars" joining musician Sergio Vargas on stage following a 7:10 p.m. game against the Astros.

• Tickets for Citi Field's Aug. 15 soccer match between Ecuador and Chile went on sale Thursday. Tickets start at $30, and are available at Tickets.com and 718-507-TIXX.