The Mets will have the welcome sight of Carlos Beltran back in the outfield Thursday night, but the five-time All-Star brings some lineup challenges with his powerful bat.
Beltran has yet to play this season after January surgery on his right knee, and missed much of the 2009 season because of the knee. He won't play every day initially, but when he's ready, that leaves manager Jerry Manuel trying to juggle four outfielders: Beltran, Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur.
The Mets haven't been great offensively -- they're ninth in the National League in runs -- but center field has been the least of their worries, with Angel Pagan filling in marvelously (.315/.372/.473, 40 RBI, 19 stolen bases).
When Beltran is ready to play every day, Francoeur, batting .253, could be the odd man out as Pagan plays regularly in right. Francoeur, batting .303 against left-handed starters, should get some starts against lefties, though the switch-hitting Pagan is no slouch (.283) against left-handers either.
At any rate, working in a player the caliber of Beltran into the lineup is a problem most teams would love to have.
-- David Andriesen
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