Beltran returns to Mets' lineup

NEW YORK -- The injury-riddled New York Mets got a big boost Friday night when All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup for the opener of a three-game series against the Florida Marlins.

Beltran missed two games against the Washington Nationals because of a bone bruise below his right knee and rested for three days total with New York off on Thursday. He had an MRI on Tuesday, which also revealed an inflamed tibia, and a cortisone shot.

"I feel better," Beltran said. "I don't feel the sensation that I was feeling a couple days ago so I was able to move around today out there, hit in the cage, hit from the right side and I didn't feel anything so I guess it's good."

The switch hitter's return was welcome news for New York, which has played well despite injuries to key parts of its offense like Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. The Mets had won three straight and five of six before the series against the Marlins.

Beltran went 0 for 4 with an intentional walk in the victory over Florida. He also made a nice running catch on Emilio Bonifacio's sinking liner in the third before throwing to second to double off Wes Helms.

Beltran, batting .358 with six homers and 31 RBIs this season, was hopeful that the shot and rest would be enough to put the leg injury behind him.

"It's tough. The doctor said shots like that sometimes work. Sometimes they don't work," he said. "Hopefully this one works. Right now it's working so far."

While Beltran went right back into the lineup, the Mets have a far trickier situation with injured catcher Brian Schneider ready to come off the disabled list. Schneider hurt his back in April then injured his right calf during a rehab game in Florida.

Omir Santos, who was brought up from Triple-A Buffalo when Schneider went on the DL, and Ramon Castro have played well with New York's regular catcher sidelined. Santo connected for his third homer in the fifth against Florida, and Castro also has come up with some big hits.

"They've been playing great," Schneider said. "Santos, I'm proud of him. He's done a great job. Again, the decision is not in my hands so I can just take care of myself and be 100 percent and come back and see what happens."

Manager Jerry Manuel said Schneider will be activated on Saturday and the club was considering every option for its catching situation. New York could carry three catchers or make a move with one.

"We have not come up with a clear-cut decision at this point," Manuel said.

The Mets also announced that reserve infielder Alex Cora has been sent to Triple-A Buffalo on a rehab assignment.

Cora, who joined the Bisons on Friday, was placed on the disabled list on May 18 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb. In 26 games this season, Cora was hitting .333 (17 for 51) with four doubles, a triple and four RBIs.

The Mets also assigned minor-league outfielder Emil Brown to Buffalo after acquiring him in a trade with San Diego.

The Bisons placed pitchers Dillon Gee and Carlos Muniz on the disabled list. Both have strained right shoulders.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report