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07/29/09 9:56 PM ET

Beltran eyes return within 2 1/2 weeks

Center fielder says injured right knee responding well

NEW YORK -- Imagine the Mets about to confront the Braves at Citi Field next month and beginning an extended sequence of games against opponents with legitimate postseason aspirations -- all with Carlos Beltran playing center field and Jose Reyes playing shortstop. Beltran has imagined that. Indeed, he even sees it happening. And the Mets can wish that foresight were 20-20.

Beltran, on the disabled list since June 22, said Wednesday he considers his return to active duty possible within two and a half weeks. His remarks Wednesday afternoon, before the Mets-Rockies game was postponed, stand as the most specific and optimistic prognoses anyone connected with the Mets has expressed since the center fielder's season was interrupted.

Beltran said "two, two and a half weeks," and added, "That's what I have in mind. That's my goal." He said his problematic right knee has responded favorably to a recently-increased workload, and that his body feels energized and generally better since he intensified the workouts about two weeks ago. He acknowledged his schedule was tentative, but he seemed more encouraged than he was before the All-Star break and willing to deal with the pain his bruised knee presents.

Wearing a brace on the knee, Beltran said, "Being pain-free is unrealistic right now. Being able to come back 100 percent is not going to happen. ... Eighty, 85 percent, I'll take that. I feel I can manage myself like that. That is fine with me."

Beltran spoke less than a week after general manager Omar Minaya acknowledged that Reyes was about 10-to-14 days away from returning from his protracted DL assignment. No update on Reyes' condition has been provided since then. But now, for the first time in weeks, there are indications that two of New York's missing core players could return before Aug. 18, when the Mets begin a month-long sequence of games against the Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Cubs and Rockies. At this point, all of them -- and other teams -- stand between the Mets and postseason.

"Hopefully I can get back soon," Beltran said. "Maybe the bruise is still there. But I feel better."

Beltran said he has been taking batting practice, riding an exercise bicycle and running in a pool. The last time his leg was examined, he said, the bruise hadn't diminished. He said he has no regrets about trying to play through the pain and no problems with the treatment and the rehab regimen the Mets have had him follow. There had been reports that he had been miffed. Beltran said he is not concerned with his long-term future as it relates to his knee.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.