Mets morning briefing 7.13.12

After a four-day break, the Mets resume play with a critical series at Atlanta, which leads the Mets -- and the wild-card standings -- by a half-game. After Johan Santana and then Dillon Gee were unable to take the ball in the second-half opener, Chris Young opposes Tim Hudson in the 7:35 p.m. game.

Friday's news reports:

• Gee is due to undergo surgery in St. Louis today to replace a portion of a damaged artery in his shoulder, the Mets confirmed. There is an outside chance Gee could return in late September, but the most likely scenario is he is back for 2013 without having to fear for any recurrences of clotting. Read more in Newsday and the Post.

• In all likelihood, Terry Collins said at Turner Field on Thursday, Miguel Batista should take the ball the next time the Mets need a fifth starter. When will that be? It could be as late as next Saturday, assuming Young is capable of pitching on standard rest Wednesday in Washington.

What about Matt Harvey? Well, Collins did not completely rule him out for the first turn in Gee's rotation spot, but painted it as an unlikely scenario. "It's a remote possibility," the manager said. "I'm not ruling out anything."

Make no mistake: The job appears likely to be Harvey's sooner than later.

“We’re in the hunt,” Collins told reporters in Atlanta. “This isn’t a tryout camp. So if the people who see him say he’s ready, bring him up. I’m all for it. ... [Buffalo manager] Wally [Backman] told me, 'Look, he's coming [along]. I'm not sure he's ready yet.' But, you know what? There may be a force-feed."

Writes Brian Costa in the Journal:

Before his team's game in Pawtucket, R.I., on Thursday, Buffalo manager Wally Backman said Harvey has made major strides in the past month, keeping his emotions in check and keeping the ball down in the strike zone. "I think if Matt were to go up there tomorrow, he's definitely not going to embarrass himself, without question," Backman said. "He's going to go up there and he's going to compete. He's learned a lot. There's still a lot for him to learn." And therein lies the Mets' dilemma. How ready does Harvey need to be before he's deemed ready? And at what point does that become secondary to the reality facing the major league team?

• Santana, despite a balky right ankle, was declared fit to start Sunday's series finale, expected to be against Ben Sheets in the ex-Brewer's return to the majors after a two-year absence. Santana tossed a baseball during Thursday's workout and should throw a bullpen session today to get ready. So the rotation is Young, R.A. Dickey and Santana in Atlanta, then Jon Niese opening the series in D.C. on Tuesday, after a team off-day. It should be Young or Batista on Wednesday.

“I told these guys I would have pitched [Friday night],” Santana said, according to Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger. “But the doctors told me they wanted me to take a couple extra days, and just give it a break. It was sore the day after. But it was manageable.”

Read more in Newsday, Post and the Daily News.

Jason Bay began a rehab assignment Thursday night with Class A St. Lucie, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and walk and manning seven innings in left field for Class A St. Lucie. Frank Francisco (oblique) also is ready to begin pitching for the club.

• In Game 2 of a doubleheader at Tampa, two Yankees farmhands no-hit the St. Lucie Mets. Read Thursday's full minor league recap here.

Mike Kerwick in the Record looks at Ike Davis. Writes Kerwick:

The Mets are counting on a continued climb from Davis. He hit .302 with 25 RBI in 36 games during 2011, before an ankle injury cut short his season. He had a 19-homer, 71-RBI campaign as a rookie in 2010. His first-half power numbers have been decent (12 HR, 49 RBI), but so far this season has been a step back. Davis was diagnosed with symptoms of Valley Fever during spring training -- the illness Collins referenced this past Sunday -- but Davis has said repeatedly that it has not affected his performance. But Collins wants more. Not just from Davis, but from left fielder Jason Bay and right fielder Lucas Duda.

• Here are looks at the Mets at the midway point in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Times and Record.

• In Newsday, Cody Derespina looks at on-the-block players around baseball who may fit the Mets. Derespina also offers these Mets grades.

• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post salutes Collins. Writes Kernan:

The Mets are the surprise team of the NL. That is so fitting because Collins is shocked he ever got this opportunity. He never believed he would get the chance to manage again. When Sandy Alderson called, Collins said he thought, “‘Geez I’m honored you are interviewing me.’ Then when I got it, I was flabbergasted. That’s why I said when I got it, I’m going to enjoy it more than I did the last time.’’ Collins has been true to his word, consistently turning lemons into lemonade, but that’s what you have to do when you’re a Met. “Damn right,’’ Collins said.

• Binghamton is due to remain the organization's Double-A affiliate.

TRIVIA: Which players, active or retired, have more career homers against the Mets than Chipper Jones?

Thursday's answer: Jones collected shell casings he found in the outfield from the 21-gun salute in the first baseball game back in New York after 9/11. He has kept them to this day.