Beltran participates in batting practice
Injured star takes first swings since landing on disabled list
NEW YORK -- The most interested spectator of Saturday's pregame proceedings was Mets manager Jerry Manuel, who has grown understandably tired of filling out broken lineup cards with missing pieces. And so Manuel watched with crossed fingers as Carlos Beltran took his first hacks of batting practice since landing on the disabled list in June.
"When I see a guy actually on the field, doing some baseball activities," Manuel said, "it gives me some comfort that we'll get him back soon."
Beltran's assessment earlier this week was that he would return in roughly two and a half weeks, and Manuel -- a self-professed "spiritual man" -- said Saturday that he agreed. But unless Beltran can continue to make progress as he did earlier that afternoon, the Mets will remain unsure.
Beltran, who spent more than an hour after his batting practice session in a restricted section of the Citi Field clubhouse, was not available to provide a self-assessment of his Saturday session. He walked with a noticeable limp, but swung without restraint, drilling home runs over the wall from both sides of the plate.
"In that particular setting, obviously he looked very good," Manuel said. "He's one of the top players in the game and I don't think right now, in that setting, he's far removed from at least that part of it."
What Beltran is removed from is a full range of pain-free motion. On the disabled list since June 22 with a bone bruise in his right knee, Beltran remains unable to play the outfield or run the bases without pain -- and until he improves, he will remain inactive.
Still, for Beltran, Saturday was a day of progress. He has seemingly leap-frogged Jose Reyes as the injured Mets player closest to returning -- discounting Gary Sheffield, who is due back Sunday. And Beltran would provide a significant boost to a team very much lacking in power. Although Beltran has missed more than a month due to injury, his eight home runs still ranks second on the team -- two behind Sheffield.
"As a hitter, I don't think it would take long for him," Manuel said. "I think it's a matter of how much pain he can withstand on that knee when he gets in motion. That's the biggest issue."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.