After having arthroscopic surgery on his bruised right knee bone in January, Beltran was originally scheduled to resume baseball activities in April. He has only recently been able to get back on the field and work out at full strength, but Beltran said he felt no pain in his knee after capitalizing on a key opportunity to display his progress before Minaya and the trainers by running the bases and hitting off rehabbing Mets left-hander Oliver Perez.
"I thought April was going to be the time where I would be ready to play in games, but it took longer," Beltran said. "Since I've been here, I've been working hard every single day just to try to put myself in position where I can go out and play in games and compete and be able to help the team. That's what's important right now. I'm making progress, I'm getting better and I'm looking forward to getting in games and getting in my routine."
Minaya and Beltran said they would speak with the team's head doctor this week and make a decision regarding when Beltran's rehab assignment would begin. The center fielder has participated in simulated games, having played five innings in the outfield and taken at least five at-bats per outing. The only thing that will help him at this point, Beltran said, is facing more full-speed competition -- something he'll need to do for two or three weeks upon starting his rehab assignment.
"Before, it was kind of like me going outside, taking batting practice, coming inside, getting ready for the game, taking some fly balls," Beltran said. "It was kind of like a three-hour workout -- nonstop, just me. But now, I'm ready to move up to the next step, and the next step will be playing full games and being able to do that back-to-back. And once I'm able to do that, I will let them know that I'm ready to go."
Speaking in front of his locker at the Mets' Minor League facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Beltran discussed several other aspects of his rehab -- including his reported limping while running, manager Jerry Manuel's nixed idea of having the outfielder serve as a designated hitter during last week's Interleague series and how Beltran thinks he will fit in upon returning to the Mets.
Beltran and Minaya both made reference to previous reports of the center fielder's inability to run at full speed while playing defense. Minaya responded by saying that Beltran did a "good job running," but the center fielder pointed out that there was a reason for his altered stride.
Outfitted with a fairly large knee brace, Beltran simply does not have the range of motion he would otherwise. However, Beltrain said, that does not mean he is incapable of running like he used to in the outfield.
"I'm running full speed," Beltran said. "It might look a little bit different -- the way I stride -- but that doesn't mean it's bothering me."
Minaya -- who flew to Florida for a few hours solely to observe his rehabbing center fielder -- and Beltran also addressed Manuel's lofty idea of having Beltran serve as the DH during the Subway Series in the Bronx this past weekend. Beltran thought it would have been great but also extremely difficult to immediately transition from simulated games to facing high-caliber Major League pitchers. Minaya simply attributed the idea to Manuel's eagerness to get Beltran back in the big leagues.
"That was just Jerry wishing -- that was positive thinking," Minaya said. "There's nothing wrong with thinking positive and hoping for positive things."
But when Beltran does eventually return to the Mets, he will find the outfield a little more crowded than he might have expected. Angel Pagan has been a more than serviceable replacement at the plate and in center field, playing in 67 of the team's 69 games this season. After a slow start, right fielder Jeff Francoeur is hitting .339 in June, and left fielder Jason Bay has struggled but is in only the first season of a contract that guarantees him $66 million over four years.
"My plan right now, and my job, is to get healthy and get back with the team," Beltran said. "Once I'm there, I'm there to play. I want to play. I want to go out and find a way to help the team win, offensively or defensively."
Minaya wasn't spending too much time worrying about the potential logjam in the Mets' outfield whenever Beltran returns to the team.
"I think it's a good problem to have," Minaya said, smiling.