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Beltran right on track for opener

It is no great surprise a Mets outfielder is opening the season on the disabled list. The unexpected part is that it’s Jason Bay who is inactive, not Carlos Beltran.

Beltran, who arrived at spring training with questions about his right knee, only to require a cortisone shot in his left knee to deal with inflammation, will start in right field and bat cleanup on Opening Day.

Carlos Beltran

Center Field
New York Mets

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“When I started feeling the pain in the left knee from the tendinitis, I thought that was going to hold me back,” Beltran said Thursday, before a workout at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins. “But, at the same time, the pain was there, but I was able to go in the cage and hit and do all the things. Maybe I wasn’t in the field, but I was doing all the things to get ready. When I got the injection, and I was able to run again and do all the things normally you do in order to put yourself ready to play in the games, I was fine. I was confident I was going to be able to be with the team.”

Still, it’s worth noting that Beltran has not played a full game since returning. He played five innings in right field in Tuesday’s Grapefruit League game, then six innings on Wednesday. Terry Collins likely will sit Beltran on Sunday, and then another game in Philadelphia during the second series.

“Three more I don’t think will be any different,” Beltran said about playing a full nine innings versus Wednesday’s six innings. “… I think it’s going to be fine. I mean, I’m still sore in my legs a little bit -- my glutes and my hamstring -- but that’s a soreness that the only way it’s going go away is by playing the field.”

As for his readiness for right field, a position he has played a total of three major league games, all in 2000 with the Kansas City Royals, Beltran said: “It’s going to take time for me to be 100 percent confident out there because of the read off the bats and things like that are a different view than what is in center field. But other than that, I feel great. It’s less action, for sure. So I need to get used to that.”

Beltran did acknowledge right field feels “a little bit strange.”

Said Beltran: “Sometimes they take a full swing and they hit the ball off the end [of the bat], and I think it’s going to be a ball that’s over my head, and I have to run in. I have to get used to that. But when I get used to that, I’ll be fine.”

At least Sun Life Stadium has a fairly straight right-field wall with no quirks, making it a relatively easy reintroduction.

“I think this field is a normal field,” Beltran said. “You don’t have the angles and anything like that. When we play fields that have those difficult angles, I probably have to come early and take some balls off the bat and see where the ball breaks.”

Collins acknowledged he may use a defensive replacement for Beltran late in early season games, while being mindful of when Beltran is next due up in the order to make sure he does not get cheated out of an at-bat.

“It all depends when his bat is coming up again,” the manager said. “I don’t want to take that bat out of the lineup in a game he’s got a chance to make a difference in.”