Mets ask Sox coach for Bay help

Looking to solve Jason Bay’s season-long hitting funk, the Mets have reached out to none other than Boston Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan.

The practice of enlisting aid from a former instructor isn’t taboo or unusual, according to Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson. The goal was to learn “keys” in Bay’s swing to address when things go poorly.

“Just hear it from somebody else,” HoJo told ESPNNewYork.com. “That’s one good thing -- he’s been with other people. They’ve seen him. We don’t have a history with him. He has a history, but we don’t have it.”

CLOSING ACT: Closer Billy Wagner returns to Citi Field this weekend for the first time since the Boston Red Sox claimed him off waivers and the Mets worked out a trade for minor leaguers Chris Carter and Eddie Lora last August.

Wagner has received a hostile reception in Philly every time he returns to Citizens Bank Park. He doesn’t expect warmth in Queens. But he doesn’t expect that level of venom, either.

“I don’t expect them to cheer me. By no means. But it’s definitely not like that,” Wagner said, referring to Philadelphia’s receptions. “I know everyone wants to think I didn’t, but I truly loved playing here. I thought it was great. I just felt bad I wasn’t able to bring a championship and got hurt.”

Wagner, who signed a one-year, $7 million contract with Atlanta that includes an option for 2011, is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA and has one save in two chances this season. He is 14 shy of the 400-save plateau.

“I think right now me and Frankie (Rodriguez) are in a race to see who can get to two,” Wagner quipped. “That could take all year. They’re not coming easy. They’re not coming quick. But they will.”

MEMORY TRIP: Braves manager Bobby Cox, who plans to retire at season’s end, enjoyed a claim to fame with the Yankees for 42 years. Until Thursday, that is. When the Yankees turned a triple play in Oakland, it marked the first time the franchise had accomplished the feat since June 3, 1968. That day, the 27-year-old rookie Cox received a throw from pitcher Dooley Womack and completed a triple play by throwing to Mickey Mantle at first base.

“They knocked me out of the record books,” Cox said with a laugh. “It was a line drive to Womack, the pitcher, to me at third, back to Mickey at first.”

Cox had not yet seen the latest triple play.

“We got in real late last night,” Cox said.

MAKING PROGRESS: Manager Jerry Manuel resisted putting Jose Reyes in the No. 3 slot in the lineup until the shortstop had knocked off some of the rust from his three weeks of thyroid-induced inactivity during spring training.

Reyes indicated he’s not perfectly comfortable at the plate yet, but he’s feeling considerably better than he did when he first was activated from the DL on April 10. Reyes went 6-for-14 with two RBIs and a steal during the four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

“I don’t want to say everything is there yet, but it’s much better than the week before,” Reyes said. “It’s much better. There’s no doubt about it. I’m striking out less. I wasn’t too happy about all the strikeouts I had before. It’s coming.”

MINOR DOINGS: Right-hander Elmer Dessens landed on the disabled list with Triple-A Buffalo with a left hamstring strain.

SAY HEY: Mets reliever Manny Acosta, who spent spring training with the Braves, is among those impressed with right field phenom Jason Heyward.

“He’s got a lot of power, and makes a lot of contact, too,” said Acosta, who was claimed off waivers by the Mets on March 30. “You cannot strike him out easy.”

Heyward has struck out 19 times in 52 at-bats in the majors. However, he struck out only 105 times in 876 at-bats in the minors.

Heyward bats fifth on Friday for the first time in the majors. He previously had been placed sixth and seventh by Cox. Still, the manager said he doesn’t need to shield his rookie early in the season from too high-profile a slot in the order.

“That’s just where he fit in the lineup at the beginning. That’s all,” Cox said. “He’s moved up tonight because I’m resting (Yunel) Escobar. Let’s see how it keeps going. He’s a great kid.”

Escobar, incidentally, didn’t hustle during a double play against the Phillies, which could explain his rest. First baseman Troy Glaus also has a day off Friday.