NEW YORK -- Mets closer Frank Francisco was unavailable out of the bullpen during Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Yankees due to what he described as soreness in his left oblique. The right-hander confirmed after the game that no tests were scheduled and that the soreness was unfamiliar.

Francisco said he initially felt some pain after converting a 20-pitch save on Friday night, but he shrugged it off as "normal soreness." He attempted to throw prior to Saturday's game but was scratched after the discomfort failed to subside.

Francisco's absence left the Mets' already short-handed bullpen with only five arms on Saturday. With Ronny Cedeno returning from the disabled list on Friday, manager Terry Collins elected to option reliever Elvin Ramirez to Triple-A Buffalo.

Rest works wonders for concussed Bay

NEW YORK -- Saying he feels "astronomically better" over the past few days and "a thousand times better" than he thought he would at this point in his recovery, Mets outfielder Jason Bay returned to Citi Field this weekend amid optimism that his concussion is less severe than originally feared.

"I actually feel pretty good," Bay said. "A lot better than I thought I would."

More than most, Bay can lean on an accurate frame of reference, having missed more than two months of the 2010 season with a serious concussion after crashing into Dodger Stadium's outfield wall -- much as he slammed his head into Citi Field's fence on June 15. In the days following that injury, both manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson said publicly that they feared a long absence for Bay.

But in 2010, Bay took plane rides with the team and appeared in games in the days following his concussion -- activities that, in hindsight, may have stunted his recovery. This time, Bay reported immediately to his home in Westchester, N.Y., where he "had a week of real relaxation, just kind of doing nothing."

The result was a symptom-free, high-spirited outfielder who discussed his concussion on Saturday afternoon. Though Bay will not have a firm grasp on his status until he begins attempting some more intensive physical activity, possibly as soon as this week, he also knows that his current condition is promising.

"It took me a lot longer to get to this point two years ago," Bay said.

"The fact that his head feels better, that the headaches and the dizziness is going away, those are great signs," said Collins, who spoke with Bay at length on Friday, when the outfielder showed up to the park for the first time since his injury. "I know our medical team will take this slow and hopefully get him back as soon as we possibly can."

Bay hesitated when asked if he will ultimately rein in his effort on defense, avoiding the types of headlong dives that have resulted in two concussions and a fractured rib over the past 24 months. Now 33 years old, Bay still boasts plenty of mobility in the outfield and has established a reputation as an aggressive defender.

But the result has been an inability to stay healthy since the Mets signed him to a four-year, $66 million contract in 2010. Bay has appeared in just 240 games since that time, hitting 22 home runs.

"It's not ideal, that's for sure," Bay said. "There is a concern, no question. I'm not going to say that there isn't. But at the same time, it's something that you try to forget about."

Mets share laugh over Byrdak's adopted chicken

NEW YORK -- Little Jerry Seinfeld clucked into Citi Field on Friday afternoon, after Mets reliever Tim Byrdak asked a clubhouse attendant to buy the live chicken from a downtown Flushing merchant. In a reference to closer Frank Francisco calling the Yankees "chickens," Byrdak presented the bird to Francisco and told him the Yankees sent it over from the visitors' clubhouse.

After Francisco cried foul -- fowl? -- Byrdak eventually admitted that the joke was his doing. So now the Mets have a mascot, or at least a good luck charm. With Little Jerry -- a reference to Cosmo Kramer's cock-fighting chicken on a 1997 episode of "Seinfeld" -- sequestered in the clubhouse, the Mets plated five runs in the first inning off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte on the way to a 6-4 win.

"Of course he's worth it," Byrdak said of his $8 purchase. "We scored five in the first."

Clearly, the Mets have embraced their inner poultry since Francisco's comments made the front page of Friday's New York Post, alongside a picture of Derek Jeter's head superimposed onto a chicken's body. Rather than apologize, Francisco clarified that his comments were in reference to the Yankees often complaining about calls. Then he went out and pitched a scoreless -- albeit rocky -- ninth inning to close out Friday's Subway Series opener, while his teammates continued to joke incessantly about the whole ordeal.

Overnight, team chef Theresa Corderi researched online what to feed Byrdak's chicken, settling on a mix of oatmeal, berries and bread. But it all begged the question: what's next for Little Jerry?

"You can't just put it out on Roosevelt Avenue," noted teammate Jason Bay.

Lest a horde of animal-rights groups come banging on the clubhouse door, Byrdak said he is researching "a chicken sanctuary or somewhere where he can rest comfortably the rest of his life, and not worry about a deep-fryer or an oven."

In the interim, Little Jerry Seinfeld was "resting comfortably in a very secure place" prior to Saturday's game, Byrdak said, while his teammates continued to cluck about the joke.

"I did my best to stay out of the clubhouse yesterday," manager Terry Collins said. "It was pretty funny. I don't know if the chicken is still here. I don't know where it is. I don't want to know. But it keeps the clubhouse loose in certainly an intense situation."

Worth noting

• Ike Davis was a late scratch from Saturday's starting lineup due to a bout of food poisoning. In Davis' absence, second baseman Daniel Murphy slid over to first base for the fourth time this season, with Jordany Valdespin manning second.

• Collins would like injured shortstop Ruben Tejada to receive at least 20 at-bats at Triple-A Buffalo before the team will consider activating him. Tejada, who has been on the disabled list since May 7 with a strained right quad, entered Saturday with 12 at-bats at Buffalo. Said Collins: "I want to make sure not only that his timing at the plate is in order, but I want his legs in good shape."