NEW YORK -- The Mets optioned catcher Mike Nickeas to Triple-A Buffalo shortly after Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Nationals and recalled catcher Rob Johnson from Buffalo.

Nickeas started on Tuesday against Washington but finished 0-for-2, lowering his season batting average to .168. In 16 July at-bats, he had just one hit.

Johnson was with the Mets from May 8-30, when Josh Thole was recovering from a concussion. He had 10 hits in 32 at-bats.

Mets establish recovery plan for Johan

NEW YORK -- A plan has been set for Johan Santana's recovery.

The left-hander will work with Mike Herbst, the Mets' Minor League strength and conditioning coach, who has been brought to New York for the week. Santana will continue to play long-toss until he is ready to throw off a mound, which manager Terry Collins believes will be sometime toward the middle of next week.

"After that we're hoping that he's back," Collins said.

Santana is scheduled to make a start on Aug. 8 or Aug. 9 as long as everything checks out and he doesn't suffer any setbacks.

Over his three most recent starts, Santana surrendered 19 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings. After he lasted just three innings and surrendered six earned runs to the Dodgers on Friday, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle.

Mets could get Baxter back on Monday

NEW YORK -- Mike Baxter could rejoin the Mets on Monday in San Francisco, according to manager Terry Collins.

Baxter, who displaced his right collarbone on June 1 when he crashed into the left-field fence at Citi Field making a catch to save Johan Santana's no-hitter, only needs to make a few more rehab appearances in the outfield.

Baxter appeared in nine games entering Wednesday but played the outfield in only two of them. Swinging the bat came first in his recovery, and Collins wants a better report on how Baxter feels throwing the ball and playing defense.

The native of Queens saw time at Class A Advanced Port St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, and is now with Triple-A Buffalo, where he played the past two games. He went 4-for-8 with Buffalo, playing left field in one game and designated hitter in the other. Altogether, he is 11-for-33 with seven RBIs during his rehab assignment.

"It's more about the bat speed -- is he making solid contact? Sometimes those base hits can be deceptive," Collins said. "How's his strength? How's his arm? Because Mike Baxter had a pretty good arm. I want to make sure that arm strength's back. The reports so far have been pretty good about the way he's been swinging."

Collins discusses playing time with Bay

NEW York -- Manager Terry Collins had a conversation with Jason Bay before Wednesday's game about the left fielder's playing time.

Although Jordany Valdespin started in Bay's spot on Wednesday, that decision was a product of a more favorable matchup against right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who has struggled recently against left-handed hitters.

"It's pretty hard to [say to] him, 'Hey, look, your production has got to be picked up' when you're not running him out there all the time," Collins said. "Today, with Strasburg, with the fact that he hasn't had a lot of at-bats lately, it's a tough matchup, but we'll have a lot better matchups for him this weekend."

Collins intends to play the right-handed-hitting Bay consistently during the upcoming 11-game road trip so he can get him enough at-bats to evaluate how he's swinging. Entering Wednesday's game, Bay had 99 sporadic at-bats over the course of this season, which Collins believes is not enough time to make judgments.

"We are well aware how Jason has performed over the last two years due to his concussions, shoulder problems and the other issues that he's had -- broken rib," Collins said. "But when you're looking at a guy who has really had a tough time getting consistent playing time, it's really tough to evaluate."

As of Wednesday, Bay is hitting .182 with five home runs and eight RBIs, and has made two trips to the disabled list in what has been a disappointing start to 2012.

Trouble for Francisco in first rehab outing

NEW YORK -- Frank Francisco made his first rehab appearance on Wednesday for Double-A Binghamton, but he could not escape his only inning.

The closer, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique, pitched two-thirds of an inning and allowed two runs on three hits and a walk. He gave up a leadoff double, then retired the next two batters before surrendering a single and a double. He walked the next batter and exited with the bases loaded.

He threw 24 pitches, 14 for strikes.

The right-hander threw a 40-pitch bullpen session on Monday but experienced discomfort in his knee afterward, and required an injection.

He has a 4.97 ERA in 31 games, and has converted 18 of his 21 save opportunities.