PHILADELPHIA -- The maladies that have struck the Mets involve Luis Castillo's back spasms, Carlos Delgado's inflamed right hip and no one's hamstring. But here is New York, beginning a three-game series in the home of the World Series champions, decidedly hamstrung. Even before the first pitch Friday night, the Mets were trailing the Phillies, 25 players to 23.

Neither the second baseman, who hasn't played since the fourth inning of Monday's game against the Marlins, nor the first baseman, who hasn't played since Sunday, was a consideration for the lineup that opposed Chan Ho Park. Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis took their respective places as the Mets played their nemesis for the first time this season.

Castillo was closer to returning, Mets manager Jerry Manuel said, than was Delgado, but Manuel noted Delgado was a available to pinch-hit, something he could not do Wednesday afternoon when Manuel raised eyebrows by having rookie Omir Santos pinch-hit for Ramon Castro with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth inning with the Mets trailing by a run. If the same game circumstances were to develop again, Manuel said he would use Delgado.

But using him would make it impossible for the club to assign Delgado to the disabled list retroactively to Monday if such a move became necessary.

"[Saturday] will be a big day for [Delgado]," Manuel said. "If he's still struggling and we didn't use him [Friday night], that's the sort of thing we'd at least have to visit. We don't want this to become a chronic thing."

Delgado tripled in his first at-bat Sunday and aggravated a condition in his right hip sliding into third base. He received a cortisone injection after undergoing an MRI, but he has told people in the clubhouse the injection may have missed the spot.