Beltran plays five frames in rehab start

Beltran plays five frames in rehab start

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran went 0-for-2 with a walk in his first rehabilitation game for Class A St. Lucie on Thursday night. Beltran did not have a ball hit his way during five innings in center field.

Beltran has missed the first 71 games of the Mets' season after undergoing offseason surgery on his right knee in January.

"I feel like I'm in shape physically, but being out there playing for a game, you can never prepare for that," Beltran said before the game. "That's something that will come with time. I'm excited to be here today [for] my first game and looking forward to go out and having the chance to compete."

Before the Mets hosted the Tigers on Thursday, manager Jerry Manuel wouldn't even rule out a return by the center fielder for the Mets' series in Puerto Rico with the Marlins starting on Monday.

"I'm anxious to see how he responds tomorrow; that will be key," Manuel said. "If he plays well in these first couple games, he's going to be making phone calls to get up here."

The Mets have 20 days to recall Beltran once his rehab assignment starts, but Manuel refused to say that playing in Puerto Rico early next week was out of the question.

"I think he'd push for it," Manuel said of Beltran, a native of Puerto Rico. "He would really have to be doing extremely well for that to happen. A lot of things would have to go right for him. It would be a tough sell for him to make that trip."

That seems very unlikely, considering Beltran would only play three or four rehab games before Monday. Furthermore, Hiram Bithorn Stadium still has an artificial turf field, which is a less-than-ideal surface for a center fielder coming back on a surgically repaired knee.

General manager Omar Minaya said the Mets still did not have a timeframe for Beltran.

"We've got to see how he looks and how he feels," Minaya said. -- Tim Britton