Scott Erickson, Part Deux

Scott Erickson makes the first National League start of his career as the Mets open an abbreviated two-game series with the Florida Marlins Monday. <P> Erickson, 36, made the Mets' roster out of spring training but strained a hamstring 12 minutes into his warmup session on April 8 at Atlanta, and has been sidelined since.

He was originally scheduled to start last Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies, but the Mets were unable to make the accompanying roster move that day because of New York's 11-inning affair Thursday, as the team feared being caught short by dropping to 11 relievers. Jae Seo made the emergency start instead, a 5-1 loss to the Phillies.

After a four-game split with division-leading Philadelphia, the Mets are still unlikely to cut a reliever – Jose Parra and Orber Moreno would be likely demotion candidates – for that same reason as they continue a stretch that sees them without an off-day until August 2, meaning that a position player is likely to be moved before Erickson is officially called up Monday.

That player could be outfielder Karim Garcia, who met with GM Jim Duquette over the weekend to discuss his immediate future – the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are among the teams interested in Garcia, who is hitting .234 with seven homers and became a superfluous part with the addition of Richard Hidalgo to the Mets' outfield mix.

The Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants are also said to be interested in Garcia, who could be designated for assignment Monday, giving New York ten days to trade or release him.

Erickson and the Mets draw a tough customer in Florida's Dontrelle Willis Monday. Willis is 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his brief Major League career against the Mets.

Kaz-tastic: Very quietly, the much-maligned Kaz Matsui has come around with the bat. The Japanese import has posted a .394 mark (26-for-66) over his last 15 games, hitting safely in 14 of them.

Of course, Matsui's defense still continues to be suspect. He committed his 17th and 18th errors of the season on Saturday afternoon, and even attempted a Rey Ordonez-esque slide in the hole in an attempt to hasten the speed in which he gets to plays, allowing him more time to straighten and make strong throws to first base. Call it a work in progress: Matsui didn't touch the ball.

Notes: Mike Cameron has homered in five of his last nine games, hitting .323 (10-for-31) through that stretch. … Manager Art Howe said that catcher Vance Wilson will begin to see more playing time in the coming weeks, stemming from a 3-for-4 performance Sunday. Jason Phillips is struggling badly, hitting just .210 and prompting Mets management to consider demoting the catcher/first baseman to Triple-A Norfolk.

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