Pagan expects to play Tuesday

Angel Pagan, who has not played since leaving Wednesday’s game at Citi Field with a side muscle injury, expects to be in the lineup Tuesday against Marlins left-hander Nate Robertson. The switch-hitting Pagan has found it easier to swing from the right side, although the center fielder predicted hitting from either side should not be an issue.

“I just want to make sure,” Pagan said. “I’m just trying not to make this a setback.”

CENTER STAGE: Carlos Beltran is scheduled to play a full nine innings in center field for the first time Monday night for St. Lucie, on Day 5 of his rehab assignment in the minors. Omar Minaya expects Beltran will remain in the minors at least another week. But the GM was noncommittal whether Beltran would spend the entire allowable 20 days on the farm -- or whether any work would eventually be at a higher level than Class A St. Lucie.

“The key is going to be when he plays consecutive days of nine innings, and then we’re going to get a better idea of where he’s going to be at,” Minaya said about Beltran’s knee.

Minaya indicated Beltran will wear a knee brace when he ultimately is activated.

“At some point in time, hopefully, he will not wear the brace,” the GM said. “In the near future he will have to wear the brace.”

PERSONAL CATCHER: Henry Blanco is scheduled to catch R.A. Dickey for the third straight game Monday night, and Jerry Manuel indicated he intends to continue to pair the tandem in the future.

The manager suggested it’s too taxing on Rod Barajas and affects him the next day when he catches the knuckleballer. Barajas had two passed balls the last time he caught Dickey, in Baltimore on June 11. Manuel insisted Barajas’ recent back issues, which kept him out of the lineup last week, were not a factor in using him less frequently, and not with Dickey.

“It’s a little easier for Henry than Barajas,” Manuel said about catching Dickey. “When Barajas catches him, it’s such work that we really don’t feel like we’ve got him for the next day. … It’s more stressful, and I think that wears him.”

Manuel also indicated he plans to keep three catchers and six relievers around for the foreseeable future -- unless a short outing by a starting pitcher taxes the bullpen and demands calling up a pitcher. Josh Thole may start Wednesday’s series finale, catching Mike Pelfrey.

“With the history we have with our catchers being kind of dinged up here, dinged up there, I think if we can kind of keep them fresh, I think that works out better for us to have that third catcher,” Manuel said. “… It was either that, or take that extra pitcher that’s only been out there sometimes two out of 15 days.”

LINEUPS: Manuel expects Puerto Rico native Alex Cora to start Wednesday’s series finale at second base. … The manager plans to start Fernando Tatis at first base over Ike Davis on Tuesday against the southpaw Robertson. Tatis has started seven games at first base this season, primarily early on when he was platooning with Mike Jacobs. Tatis is 0-for-his-last-18 since singling as a pinch hitter on May 23 against the Yankees’ Boone Logan.

OLLIE TWIST: Oliver Perez may begin a minor league rehab assignment within days. Perez threw a 90-pitch simulated game on Thursday and the Mets want him to face a higher level of competition. … Reliever Sean Green, who has been out since mid-April with a side injury that turned out to be a rib fracture, has started throwing off a mound. … John Maine was due to resume throwing on Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

HOMECOMING: Ex-Met Jose Valentin visited the team at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, and his son Jesmuel is due to serve as a batboy during the Mets-Marlins series. Valentin, who played for the Mets in ’06 and ’07, was forced to pull the plug on his career because of a herniated disc. He said he was offered a minor league job by the Boston Red Sox, but wants to be home in Puerto Rico with his son until he is -- hopefully -- drafted in 2012 before considering a coaching job in baseball. The 16-year-old middle infielder is entering the 11th grade at the same baseball academy that produced 2005 second-round pick Hector Pellot.

EXPOSITION: The last time the Mets played in San Juan, in 2003 and ’04 against Montreal, Minaya was general manager of the Expos. He noted it was taxing splitting the schedule between Canada and the Caribbean.

“In 2003, on Labor Day weekend, we were in first place for the wild card,” Minaya recalled. “It ended up being the Marlins. The Marlins ended up winning the whole World Series. … We ended up playing 20 games here. One of those games we ended up playing here and then going to Seattle the next day, and then beating Seattle two out of three. The experience in Puerto Rico was great. The fans were great. The support was great. It brings back a lot of memories being here right now.”