"I just want to help this team win ballgames," Beltran said Thursday afternoon. "That's my goal. I'm excited, anxious, but once this day is over, everything comes back down to normal."
Beltran spoke those words some four hours before making his 2010 debut, starting in center field for the Mets and batting cleanup. After missing the entire first half of the season recovering from right knee surgery, Beltran is aware of the expectations surrounding his return -- and completely ready to ignore them.
"I'm not a savior," Beltran said. "I'm just going to come here and play the game hard."
Beltran's presence did have one immediate impact on the Mets, shifting Angel Pagan to right field and regular right fielder Jeff Francoeur to the bench. Though manager Jerry Manuel has not completely determined when and how often he will use Beltran, he has worked out a rough rotation to split time amongst his now-crowded outfield. Most likely, Beltran will play Thursday, Friday and Sunday; Pagan will start in right field Thursday and in center Saturday; and Francoeur will start in right field Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
With few exceptions, Jason Bay will continue to play nearly every day in left field.