Mets encouraged by Beltran's progress

NEW YORK -- Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran is expected to shag fly balls again on Saturday in an effort to test his bruised right knee.

If everything goes well, Beltran could try running the bases before going on a minor league rehab assignment. The All-Star slugger has been on the disabled list since June 22 with a bone bruise on the knee.

Beltran took fly balls on the field hours before New York's 3-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night. He declined to talk about it afterward, sending word through Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz that he was satisfied with the workout and would have more to say on Saturday.

"Looked better," said manager Jerry Manuel, who watched part of Beltran's session. "Much better."

The Mets have tumbled down the standings with Beltran, speedster Jose Reyes and slugger Carlos Delgado among several key players on the disabled list. They are 12 games back of Philadelphia in the NL East and 9½ behind wild card-leading Colorado after Friday night's victory in the opener of a season-long, 11-game homestand.

Manuel remained vague when asked about a timetable for Beltran's return but was optimistic he would play again this season.

"Tomorrow will be a determining factor," Manuel said. "It depends on how he responds to the work that he did today and can he do the same thing tomorrow. That would be very, very key for us."

Beltran is batting .336 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 62 games this season. He hit .284 with 27 homers and 112 RBIs in 161 games last year.

Manuel also said Livan Hernandez would remain in the rotation despite his rocky stretch. His next start is set for Monday against the Giants.

"Just looking back at everything, there's been times where he's had a couple bad outings and then he's bounced right back," the manager said. "Hopefully we can get that from him now on the rest of the way."

Hernandez has lost each of his last two starts, allowing 12 runs and 15 hits in nine innings. The right-hander is 7-7 with a 5.28 ERA on the year.