WASHINGTON -- Calling Miguel Batista the team's best available option, the Mets have decided to start the 41-year-old veteran Saturday over top prospect Matt Harvey.

"We want to make sure that when he starts his Major League career, it's an auspicious start," general manager Sandy Alderson said of Harvey. "He's knocking on the door. We can hear him. But we thought this was the best decision."

Those words came mere minutes after manager Terry Collins called Harvey at Triple-A Buffalo to relay the organization's decision, and one day after Harvey submitted a mottled outing in front of team brass at Buffalo. With front office lieutenant J.P. Ricciardi in attendance, Alderson watching on television, and Collins phoning in for updates, Harvey walked four batters and hit another, but also escaped multiple jams to pitch into the seventh.

It was not enough to convince the Mets that he is the best option to fill Dillon Gee's vacant rotation spot on Saturday. Though the decision is by no means permanent, Mets officials huddled and agreed that Batista gives them their strongest chance to beat the Dodgers.

"I don't think there's a scenario that [did] not get analyzed," Collins said.

Batista was initially the clear choice to start Saturday until he walked four batters over 1 1/3 innings last Friday in Atlanta, casting doubt over his ability to succeed. The next day, the Mets announced that they would dispatch top officials to Buffalo to watch Harvey, who had posted a 1.88 ERA over his previous four outings.

If ever there was a time to call him up, it seemed to be now, with the Mets in need of a starting pitcher and Harvey both on turn and pitching well. But the Mets are committed to seeing both Harvey and fellow top prospect Zack Wheeler dominate Triple-A before promoting them; whenever they ultimately call those two up to New York, they do not want to fear sending them back down. To that end, Alderson said he "cannot envision a scenario" in which Wheeler, a 22-year-old currently at Double-A, will pitch for the Mets this season.

That is not congruent to the case of Harvey, who should still pitch in New York this summer -- perhaps as soon as later this month. But it will not happen this weekend.

"His development ... needs to be independent of what we're doing at the Major League level," Alderson said. "The fact that we have a need, he's knocking on the door, there's a convergence of the two things. But rightly or wrongly, we've decided Saturday is not the right time."

Bay returns as Mets hope for boost vs. lefties

WASHINGTON -- Throughout the past month, the Mets have bemoaned their lack of a second right-handed slugger to complement David Wright in their lineup.

In theory, that slugger showed up Tuesday, when the Mets activated Jason Bay from the disabled list and designated infielder Omar Quintanilla for assignment. Sidelined since June 15 with a concussion, Bay slugged .500 against left-handed pitching as recently as last season. As a result, the Mets plugged him right back into their lineup Tuesday against Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler, playing left field and batting fifth.

"I'm just trying to jump in," Bay said. "Obviously things haven't gone right. I've struggled a little bit. I'm not trying to carry the team. I'm not trying to do that. I'm just trying to pitch in."

Bay landed on the disabled list June 15 with his second concussion in a two-year span, suffered tumbling into Citi Field's left-field wall. Though the Mets initially feared that Bay would miss the rest of the season, he shed his symptoms relatively quickly and began playing in rehab games, going 3-for-10 with four walks for Triple-A Buffalo.

The Mets hope that even if Bay no longer returns to the elite power-hitting levels of his Pittsburgh and Boston days, he can still be a force against left-handed pitching. His track record against lefties is as strong as that of anyone on the team other than Wright; coupled with continued production from Scott Hairston, Bay could go a long way toward solving those woes for the club.

The team's overall success may depend on it, with general manager Sandy Alderson saying Tuesday that he does not consider a right-handed bat a Trade Deadline need.

But to help the Mets, Bay must stay healthy. The 33-year-old outfielder has now suffered three serious injuries over the past two years by diving or leaping near the left-field wall, including two concussions and a fractured rib. Still, Bay said he did not anticipate scaling back his aggression on defense.

"It's kind of hard to back off," Bay said. "Is that tentative? That's something that's probably going to be determined out there. But as of right now, when I was playing in the Minor Leagues, it wasn't in my mind."

Alderson: Bullpen help is focus as Deadline nears

WASHINGTON -- Rumors aside, the Mets have just one main concern in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Dismissing a right-handed bat or starting pitcher as priorities, general manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that his focus is to acquire help for the club's 30th-ranked bullpen. Outside of that, Alderson is hesitant to mortgage any fraction of the organization's future in exchange for a short-term fix.

"That's the number one priority," Alderson said of the bullpen. "We've looked at other things. Other things could develop. But we're focused on a long-term plan with the recognition that 2012 is very important, and we want to be as competitive as we can possibly be. Hopefully we don't have to compromise the vision."

Rumors have swirled throughout July that the Mets might be interested in a power right-handed bat or a catcher, possibly in the form of the same person. Then, when right-hander Dillon Gee underwent potentially season-ending surgery last week, the Mets became potential buyers for a starting pitcher.

But starters are expensive in terms of the prospects that other teams expect back, and the Mets already added a right-handed bat Tuesday when they activated Jason Bay from the disabled list. So rather than focus on either of those areas, they will use their lower-tier prospects and available cash to try to score a solid reliever.

At the least, they are committed to that goal. The Mets have assigned all of their Major League scouts to cover big league clubs this week, rather than check out prospects in the Minors.

"So if that's any evidence of our point of view, our state of mind, we are buyers," Alderson said. "Right now, we're buyers."

Duda gets cortisone shot in sore left hamstring

WASHINGTON -- Lucas Duda has managed to avoid the disabled list by receiving a cortisone shot in his sore left hamstring, and should return to the starting lineup Wednesday against the Nationals.

"I should be ready to play," Duda said before sitting out Tuesday's game in Washington.

Duda also sat out Sunday's game due to his bothersome hamstring, then spent his off-day traveling to New York for an MRI. That revealed only mild inflammation, which doctors soothed with cortisone. A day later, Duda, who is batting .246 with 12 home runs in 85 games, said he felt markedly better.

"There was no damage," manager Terry Collins said, indicating that Duda will enter into a right-field platoon with Scott Hairston. "They just said the shot will help, and in 48 hours you'll be ready to go."