© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

08/15/09 4:38 PM ET

Beltran works out on back-to-back days

Slugger is pain-free; lefty Wagner should return next week

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran worked out for the second successive day, taking fielding and batting practice prior to the Mets' Saturday afternoon game in another small step toward the outfielder's return.

Beltran has been on the disabled list since June 21 with a bone bruise on his right knee, and the All-Star hopes to progress to running -- first in a straight line and then the basepaths -- sometime next week.

"[Saturday] was a very good day," Beltran said. "I took balls going back, to the sides, coming forward. I didn't feel anything [painful] in what I did out there."

Mets manager Jerry Manuel, who told reporters on Friday that Beltran's back-to-back workouts would be key in assessing his progress, was equally encouraged.

Although the Mets entered Saturday 12 games behind the National League East-leading Phillies and 9 1/2 games back in the Wild Card, Manuel said having Beltran return would ease his mind going into Spring Training.

"If I could get that answer now, and then going into Spring Training, it would be one less thing for me that I would have to consider or think about or manage," Manuel said. "When you're going into spring, you hope all of that is behind you. But if you have played in September, then you really feel that it's behind you."

Beltran was hitting .336 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs when he was placed on the disabled list in June. He missed five games in late May due to both the bone bruise and a stomach flu, but he returned to the lineup on June 4. By the end of the month, the pain in his knee had worsened and the bruise expanded, forcing a trip to the DL. Even when he was placed on the DL, Beltran hoped that he could return in the minimum 15 days, but the bruise hadn't diminished as hoped, forcing him to miss 48 games.

Beltran is scheduled to have an MRI at the end of the month, but said he will predominantly rely on how his knee feels when evaluating whether he can return.

Beltran has taken indoor batting practice for the past few weeks, but he has been testing his knee on the center-field grass while fielding ground balls and popups.

The Mets will get a more immediate boost with the arrival of former closer Billy Wagner, who Manuel expects "sometime next week."

"Exactly what day that is, I'm not quite sure yet," Manuel said. "But at some point next week, we expect or anticipate him to be part of the team."

Wagner completed his final rehab outing for Class A Advanced St. Lucie on Friday night, tossing a scoreless 12-pitch inning. He is no longer in Florida, and as of Saturday afternoon, was at his Virginia home helping his family settle in.

The veteran last pitched in the Majors on Aug. 2 of last season, before he underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Manuel said Wagner won't be asked to continually get up and warm up like the rest of the bullpen, and instead will be used as a lefty specialist.

Wagner had 27 saves for the Mets last season and went 0-1 with 2.30 ERA in 45 games.

Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.