Beltran returns at DH; time in OF likely over

Beltran returns at DH; time in OF likely over

SEATTLE -- One of the reasons veteran Carlos Beltran signed with the Astros last winter was to win the championship ring that's eluded him. One of game's all-time great playoff performers, Beltran has reached the World Series just once in his career (2013 with St. Louis) and believes the addition of Justin Verlander gives the Astros a great shot to get him back to the Fall Classic.

Verlander, acquired last week in a trade with the Tigers, made his first start for the Astros on Tuesday.

"I faced him many, many times and he's one of the toughest pitchers in the game," Beltran said. "He challenges hitters. He's a veteran guy, a veteran presence in the clubhouse with a lot of younger guys here. He's a leader. He works hard and based off what I have heard from other players that have called about him, it's all positive. I think the franchise should be excited to add a guy like that and we are excited."

Beltran, who turned 40 earlier this year, was back in the lineup Tuesday at designated hitter against the Mariners after missing four games with an upper back/neck spasm he says is still bothering him. He's not having a great season -- he entered Monday hitting .234 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs -- but is pressing forward.

"I don't feel 100 percent, but I've got to give it a try," he said. "Today, based on my communication with A.J. [Hinch], I told him that yesterday could have been a day to play and he said he wanted to give me another day. I took treatment and today I have to go out there and play."

Hinch said Beltran likely won't play the outfield the rest of the season, which means he'll be limited to DH (he hasn't started in the outfield since Aug. 5). The Astros have better outfield options, especially with the addition of Cameron Maybin. On July 17, the Astros held a mock funeral to bury Beltran's glove after he didn't play in the field for two months, but Hinch put him back in the outfield a couple of days later.

Beltran's glove funeral

"His time in the outfield has probably come to an end," Hinch said. "We might be able to officially bury the glove again and I won't resurrect it. Maybe not, you never know. We'll see how the rest of the season plays out.

"These at-bats are hard to come by. One thing I've let our team know is this isn't a fairness exercise. We're trying to play the best guys we can to win the game. We want to win the division. Once you make a decision like that, you put up the best matchups you can. Some guys are going to fight for playing time, some guys aren't. But I would expect Beltran to DH a lot."

Beltran just wants another opportunity to play in October.

"We have a great group of guys, good chemistry," he said. "Adding Cameron Maybin, you add another piece to the puzzle. It looks like he really fits into the club -- good energy, very happy person. We're excited and we're looking forward to see what's ahead of us."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.