The Mets' first days of the regular season might be important in terms of wins and losses as the franchise tries to shake off the troubles of the last year. But nothing is as important to the team's hopes right now as the health of Carlos Beltran's knees.
After playing just three Grapefruit League games -- and only two in his new position, right field -- Beltran played the entire game in each of the Mets' first two games of the regular season, ran around his new position with little trouble and even scored from first on a double Saturday night.
While Beltran may still see himself as a center fielder in his heart, he willingly made the switch to right, volunteering to move before he'd tried to play a game in center this spring. And he seems content for now with his choice.
"You know what, I was looking at (center fielder Angel) Pagan running all over the place, and I was like, 'Man, that was me last year. That's a lot of running,'" Beltran said after the first game of the season. "I didn't realize how much you have to run in center field. I feel relaxed (in) right field, got a few balls, everything was easy."
The Mets hope playing in right will mean less running and less wear and tear on Beltran's knees. And with that, they can get his bat in the lineup more often, something that has not happened the past two seasons.
"I haven't really put down expectations as far as number of games played," manager Terry Collins said. "What I do want to make sure I do is when I put him out there, he can give me what I saw (Opening) Night. I don't want to put him in a situation where he has trouble going after a ball because his knees are bothering him or overdo it so I lose him for a month.
"If I lose him for a couple days, I'll buy that, I can handle that. I want to make sure I pace myself to the point where I know that on a given day, he's out there four days a week if I have to or five days a week. So that means there's going to be some days off now. The one thing I don't want to do is push the envelope too early."
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