TC thinks Mets will be in race in September

NEW YORK -- Terry Collins has stopped talking about catching the Washington Nationals, but the New York Mets manager insisted again Tuesday that he hasn't given up on making a run at the playoffs this season.

In fact, he almost guaranteed it.

"I'm really excited, because I think September's going to mean something," Collins said.

It's a little hard to see how it will.

The Mets enter play Tuesday in fourth place in the National League East, 7.5 games behind the Nationals as the teams begin a three-game series. They're slightly closer in the NL wild-card race (six games behind), but with more teams to pass and fewer head-to-head opportunities to make up ground.

General manager Sandy Alderson said he agrees with his manager, but he also said finishing at or above .500 is "definitely a goal of ours." The Mets began play Tuesday five games below break-even. They haven't been above .500 (or even at .500) since the first week of May, and they haven't finished a season above .500 since 2008.

"We know perception is reality," Alderson said. "Certain things change perception."

DeGrom improving: Jacob deGrom, placed on the disabled list Monday with rotator cuff tendinitis, expressed confidence Tuesday that he will miss only two turns through the rotation and will be able to come back and pitch the rest of the season.

"I already feel a lot better, just with the couple days rest I've had," deGrom said. "My strength is better. I think it just got inflamed."

DeGrom isn't expected to begin throwing again for several days.

More rehab for Dice-K: Collins said Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched three innings for Class A St. Lucie in his first rehabilitation appearance Monday, is scheduled for two more rehab games, likely for the Brooklyn Cyclones. The Mets would like to stretch Matsuzaka out a little bit before activating him from the disabled list, so he can be used as a long reliever and as protection in case they need someone to start a game.

Montero on merit: Alderson dismissed any suggestion the Mets should have chosen Noah Syndergaard rather than Rafael Montero to take deGrom's spot in the rotation. He said the Mets chose Montero on "merit," although he also mentioned Syndergaard's innings limit and the fact Montero was already on the 40-man major league roster and Syndergaard wasn't. He said no decision has been made on whether Syndergaard will pitch in the major leagues this season.