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01/14/10 12:40 AM EST

Beltran undergoes surgery on right knee

Center fielder expected to miss 12 weeks, Opening Day

NEW YORK -- Pain in the right knee of Carlos Beltran, an almost deafening echo of their injury-ravaged 2009 season, will deny the Mets the services of their center fielder at the beginning of the 2010 season. Beltran underwent surgery on the knee Wednesday in Denver. The Mets said in a statement Beltran is expected to resume baseball activities in 12 weeks, two days after their first regular-season game.

The statement released shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday used this phrasing to describe the latest malady to beset a team that was undermined well beyond a normal level by injuries to key personnel, Beltran included, last season: "Beltran had worsening of osteoarthritis of the right knee during the offseason. He had not been experiencing pain following the conclusion of the season and into his early offseason conditioning. The symptoms returned to the point where pre-spring training conditioning became too painful. He elected to undergo arthroscopic clean out of the arthritic area of his knee by [his] personal physician Dr. Richard Steadman today in Colorado. He is anticipated to return to baseball activities in 12 weeks."

Indications developed late Wednesday night that suggested Beltran had undergone the procedure without the club's approval, though not without its knowledge of the situation. He had been examined by Steadman in late June shortly after he began his extended assignment to the disabled list. He had sought a second opinion from Steadman, who pioneered the micro-surgery procedure that several professional athletes have undergone in recent years, at the suggestion of his agent Scott Boras, but with the club's blessing.

Evidently, the blessing was missing in his most recent scenario, according to one person who became familiar with the situation.

Beltran, 32 and in position to enter the sixth season of a seven-season contract with the Mets, missed half the team's games last year because of on-going problems with the knee. Assigned to the disabled list June 22 because of what the club identified as a bruise behind the knee cap, he didn't play again until Sept 8. The 81 games played were the fewest in his career since 1998, the year he made his big league debut with the Royals.

There had been no indication of renewed problems for the three-time Gold Glove winner who had averaged 113 RBIs in his second, third and fourth seasons with the Mets. Beltran made a public appearance in Manhattan on Nov. 11 and said he had experienced no residual pain in the knee. The club staged a program for underprivileged children at Citi Field on Wednesday and made no mention of Beltran. Its release Wednesday night provided no indication of when the pain returned.

And without input from general manager Omar Minaya or his staff, there was no way to know whether the Mets were aware of Beltran's renewed problem when they pursued and signed free agent Jason Bay. Minaya, who is attending the Owners' Meetings in Arizona, could not be reached for comment.

Upon signing, Bay mentioned Beltran as one of the talented players on the roster that made signing with the Mets appealing.

Beltran, who played in 19 games after his return from the DL, said in November he intended to have the knee examined regularly via MRI throughout the offseason, but he expected positive results. "It's not going to be a problem," he said. "I'm going to put myself in the best condition I can be and be ready for Spring Training."

Manager Jerry Manuel, contacted at his home in Sacramento, said he had learned of not only the surgery but of the need for it Wednesday night. "I'm sitting down now with a pen and pad, trying to figure some things out," he said. Manuel intends to speak with Beltran and Minaya soon.

Players who participated in the program Wednesday seemingly had no knowledge of the problem. At one point, Mike Pelfrey said, "There's no way any team can get hurt as much as we did last year, so right there, we should be better." But now, 2010 will begin for Beltran as 2009 ended for Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado, Alex Cora, Oliver Perez, Jon Niese and Fernando Nieve.

And David Wright said: "We have to find a way to stay healthy. It's important for us to go out there and have the horses for 162 games, minus a few here and there, but we have to have our horses in the lineup for us to do what we're capable of doing."

The absence of Beltran is likely to put greater responsibility on Angel Pagan, the player who had been expected to serve as the team's fourth outfielder. Pagan started 59 games as the center fielder and played in two others last year. Among the four others who started games in center -- Jeremy Reed (nine games), Fernando Martinez (seven), Ryan Church (six) and Cory Sullivan (five), only Martinez remains with the Mets, and he ended last season assigned to the disabled list, too.

Manuel didn't say Pagan would replace Beltran, but he acknowledged the team had few center field alternatives.

Beltran, who earned $18.5 million last season, is due to earn the same in 2010 and in 2011.

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