Beltran facing Royals for first time

Beltran facing Royals for first time

Beltran facing Royals for first time
ST. LOUIS -- Strange thing. With all the Interleague Play that's been going on, Carlos Beltran spent several years in the National League without ever playing against his original team, the Royals.

"It's incredible, 6 1/2 years in New York, and it never happened," Beltran said.

That situation was remedied on Friday night when Beltran was in the Cardinals' lineup in center field for the opener of the I-70 Series at Busch Stadium. Beltran was traded by the Royals to the Astros on June 24, 2004, then signed with the Mets the next year. He spent the last part of 2011 with the Giants, and signed with the Cardinals in December.

"It's good to play against a team that you began your career with. I have good memories of Kansas City. I played 6 1/2 years with them, and it was a good beginning for me," Beltran said.

"We had good young players, but they were never able to keep us together. But I have good memories. I won my Rookie of the Year and I had my first good year in baseball in Kansas City, and I had the opportunity to meet good people there."

Beltran was back in the Cardinals' lineup after missing Thursday night's game with a stomach ailment. He had checked into a hospital after playing the previous night's game.

"I spent like nine hours in the hospital getting some fluids in me and trying to find out what I was having, and, thank God, it was nothing bad," Beltran said. "I had a virus, but [it] wasn't like anything major, so they let me go, and when I came to the ballpark, [manager Mike Matheny] told me he wanted me to take some time off. So I went to the batting cage and got ready, and was ready to pinch-hit later in the game."

He wasn't needed in a 5-3 win over the White Sox, and he felt much better on Friday.

"You always worry about appendicitis, and that's always something you don't want to go through -- surgery. I had [surgery] last year. Matt Holliday went through [an emergency appendectomy] and he only missed one week, but at the same time, you worry about that," he said.

Beltran hasn't had many worries this season. He went into Friday night's game leading the NL with 19 home runs and was third with 47 RBIs. His right knee, often troublesome in the past, has held up well.

Beltran has come a long way from his Kansas City years.

"I'm older, for sure," he said with a grin. "But I've been blessed by being able to play this game for so long. This is my 14th year in the big leagues, and every step of the way has been great. There have been a lot of ups and downs in my career, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to be where I am and I look forward to staying healthy and continuing to play well."

His first game against his old team turned out to be a 3-2 loss for the Cardinals, but Beltran achieved a personal milestone.

Beltran singled to right in the second inning off Vin Mazzaro, then stole the 300th base of his career. That made him the first switch-hitter in MLB history to have 300 steals and 300 home runs (his homer count is 321). Odd to have it happen against the team for which he got his first stolen base on Sept. 17, 1998, against the White Sox. He had 164 stolen bases in a Kansas City uniform.

"It is crazy, but at the same time, things happen for a reason. So I can say it was good to play them today, even though we lost," he said.

He's also the eighth player to hit 300 homers with 300 steals, joining Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson, Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley.