LOS ANGELES -- Hampered recently by right knee soreness, Carlos Beltran returned to the Cardinals' lineup on Friday and, though appearing somewhat limited in mobility, reported feeling no knee discomfort following the team's 6-5 loss to the Dodgers.
"I was a little bit anxious and excited to be out there," said Beltran, who last started on Sunday. "In the first couple innings I was kind of stiff, being out there standing for a long time. But [there was] no pain."
Beltran found himself having to be active early, chasing down three extra-base hits during a four-batter span in the second inning. The first two dropped in the right-center field gap and were eventually picked up by center fielder Shane Robinson.
On neither play did it look like Beltran was running at full speed. But, even when healthy, his effort level can be deceptive, something manager Mike Matheny pointed out again on Friday.
"We've seen that a couple times this year where it looks like he's gliding and then the next thing you know, he catches the ball," Matheny said. "He runs a little different than most. I know he's going to be guarded a little bit, and we want him to be. That's the give-and-take as he comes back from being sore."
Beltran suggested that his defensive timing was slightly thrown off after not playing the outfield for several days. Still, Matheny was encouraged by how much better Beltran chased down the second ball hit in the gap.
"The first ball that went to him, I saw him hold up a little bit," he said. "The second one that went out to right-center, he went after it pretty hard."
The Cardinals' staff has told Beltran to "do what he [has] to do to stay in the lineup." With outfielders Jon Jay and Allen Craig now on the disabled list, the Cardinals certainly need Beltran to stay on the field, if at all possible.
Beltran's status is considered day to day. He'll be re-evaluated Saturday to see if he can make a second straight start.
"Right now, I feel good," Beltran said. "I'm just hoping to wake up tomorrow feeling good and be in the lineup."