<
>

Rehab assignments near for Beltran, Bedard

Carlos Beltran and Erik Bedard. Two names once synonymous with fantasy success, and yet two players who haven't played in a single major league game this season. But both guys have been in the news of late. It's time for an update.

Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets: It's the moment we've all been waiting for. Beltran is officially set to begin a rehab assignment Thursday. With this progression, Beltran moves one step closer to rejoining the Mets, more than a full year after his original injury. In that span, Beltran has undergone extensive rehab, rest, surgery and then some more rehab in an effort to get back to his role in the Mets' outfield.

The primary limiting factor thus far for Beltran has been running. He had surgery in January to address a cartilage defect. Not the more extensive microfracture type, but a lesser procedure designed to smooth the surface, alleviate his discomfort and still allow him -- hopefully -- to return this year. But the knee, while improved, is not perfect, and returning to running has presented some challenges.

When Beltran first attempted to run in April, he couldn't without pain. While visiting his surgeon, he was outfitted with a brace, which then allowed him to transition to running. After a gradual increase in activity (running bases, fielding, simulated games), Beltran has shown enough to persuade the medical staff and management that he is ready to begin a rehab assignment. The hope is that Beltran will be able to increase his endurance, perform all the necessary offensive and defensive skills and play consecutive days without issue.

Recent reports have suggested that Beltran shows signs of a limp while running. Beltran has said that the brace he is wearing has forced him to alter his running stride somewhat, although he insists that it is not a problem. According to the Mets' official website, Beltran indicated that it might "look a bit different, the way I stride. But that doesn't mean it's bothering me." Maybe not, but one potential concern would be that if his running pattern is significantly altered by the brace, it could start to increase stress on other areas, especially as his overall playing time increases.

Right now it appears that if all goes well, Beltran will be on track to return sometime after the All-Star break. While fantasy owners might hope for some late-season power contribution, don't count on him to be your speed guy. It's also unlikely that he would resume a full-time role at the outset. But first things first. Beltran must get through the rehab assignment and show that he is indeed ready to play in the big leagues again.

Erik Bedard, SP, Seattle Mariners: Don't say it out loud just yet, but Bedard looks to be heading for a rehab assignment soon. Bedard made his first competitive appearance this season in a rookie league game Monday in Arizona. Two important things happened: He didn't feel worse afterward, and he was able to throw his fastball at 90-plus mph. Manager Don Wakamatsu summed it up this way for the Everett Daily Herald: "He felt great. His fastball velocity was up to 93 [mph], and we're pleased with that."

Bedard, on the mend following surgery to repair the labrum in his throwing (left) shoulder, had been progressing faster than expected until he experienced a setback in May. Following a simulated game, he began to feel discomfort in the shoulder and had to scale back his throwing for a brief period. That seems to have disappeared now, and Bedard is moving toward the final hurdles he will need to clear before rejoining the team. He is scheduled to make another rookie league start Saturday and will be allowed to work up to 70 pitches. What happens next will depend on how Bedard responds to this outing, but if all goes well, a rehab assignment appears imminent.

Given his long-standing injury history, it is hard to know what to expect from Bedard once he rejoins the rotation, which is still not likely to occur before late July. He has endured numerous soft-tissue problems in the past, including hip and back issues along with the shoulder, but the extended time off could have given his body a much-needed window for recuperation. The words "cautiously optimistic" come to mind, which is what fantasy owners should be at this point.