NEW YORK -- For the first time since Carlos Beltran underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in January, the Mets have established a concrete and specific timetable for his return.
Beltran will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Class A St. Lucie, meaning that -- barring any medical setbacks -- he will rejoin the Mets no later than July 15 in San Francisco.
"The way I look at it is, every team is looking to add a pitcher, a hitter, or something like that during that time of year," general manager Omar Minaya said. "For us to be able to add Carlos Beltran, there's not going to be a better hitter in any kind of market. So I think that's a plus for us."
Beltran, who began playing in extended spring games last month in Port St. Lucie, Fla., may remain on rehab assignment for a maximum of 20 days, according to MLB rules. If the Mets keep him on assignment for the maximum term, he would return to the club for their first game after the All-Star break.
In the interim, the Mets want to see Beltran acclimate to professional pitching, while continuing to strengthen his surgically repaired right knee.
"We've got to feel comfortable that in a Major League game, Carlos Beltran is going to be able to help this team in facets of fielding, running, hitting," Minaya said. "And also that he's going to be able to do it on a regular basis."
After traveling to Port St. Lucie on Monday to watch his center fielder play, Minaya discussed the situation with Beltran, his rehabilitation staff and manager Jerry Manuel, coming to the consensus that Beltran is finally well enough to play in Minor League games.
"It's very encouraging," Manuel said. "It's good that he's doing extremely well. He's very excited about getting back and playing. And he's in a hurry to help the team, which is good. All good signs, very good signs."
A career .283 hitter, Beltran batted .284 with 27 homers in his last full season, 2006. He missed almost the entire second half of last season with right knee issues.