DENVER -- Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran was cleared by doctors Monday to begin a Minor League rehab assignment after spending more than two months on the disabled list with a bruised right knee. Beltran will play for Class A Brooklyn on Wednesday as the Cyclones host Hudson Valley.

"The examination kind of confirmed what he had been feeling," assistant general manager John Ricco said before Tuesday's series opener with the Rockies. "For the last couple of weeks, he's been pushing it pretty hard, trying to reproduce the pain that he'd been feeling. And for a little over two weeks, he's been pain-free. The examination yesterday and the MRI confirmed what they'd seen, that the injury had improved to the point where they were willing to clear him to play."

Mets medical director Dr. David Altcheck examined Beltran at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, and a new MRI showed his knee was "significantly improved," according to Ricco. Beltran had been wearing a knee brace during his rehab, and though it wasn't clear to Ricco if the MRI results meant he was completely healed, both Beltran and the team are eager for him to be back in action before the end of the season.

"Carlos feels pretty strongly about this, now that he's deemed to be healthy -- the benefit of him getting back on the field at the end of this season and heading into the offseason knowing where he is physically [is worth it], Ricco said. "From his perspective, he wanted to be able to get back out and have that peace of mind heading into the offseason."

With the Mets starting the day 17 1/2 games out of first and 13 games under .500, there is little reason to rush Beltran back, but with the full confidence of the medical team, there is apparent unanimous consent that he has met every benchmark in his rehabilitation and can safely work himself back to be ready for Major League game action.

"I'm excited that he's [playing] tomorrow," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said Tuesday. "I'm really anticipating, waiting to hear how he feels after tomorrow's game. That's a good sign for us.

"I think for him and for us and for our fans, [it's a chance] to answer questions before we get to Spring Training," Manuel added, stressing that it was important for Beltran from a psychological perspective. "Get those questions out of the way. Get ready to play. I think that's a plus."

Additional good news came out of Port St. Lucie, Fla., where John Maine has been rehabbing from the right shoulder weakness that put him on the DL on June 12 and is close to being ready to take the next step and pitch in some Minor League games.

"Maine's progressing," Ricco said. "He's been throwing live BP in Florida and throwing bullpen sessions. He's moving toward a rehab assignment. We'll have to see if the Minor League season affords him that, because we're coming to the end of the Minor League seasons. He's been improving, and we're happy with that."