Beltran then informed his manager he wanted to initiate the long-debated move from center field to right field.
"I came today thinking in my heart, 'I still think I can play center field,' " Beltran said. "But, at the same time, this is not about Carlos. This is about team."
At 8:20 a.m., Angel Pagan was summoned into the manager's office with Beltran and Collins for a five-minute meeting.
Pagan, who capably played center field in Beltran's absence during the first half of last season as Beltran recovered from Jan. 13, 2010 arthroscopic knee surgery, then was informed he would be playing center field with Beltran in right field, rather than the opposite alignment.
Beltran said the preemptive move avoids a last-minute switch on the eve of the season and prevents weeks of media discussion about the potential move in between.
"In order for me to play center field, I need more time," Beltran said. "I want to be on the same page with everyone here. I want Terry to have his time and to come to the ballpark ready to play the lineup without thinking where he is going to play Pagan, where he's going to play me. At the same time I'm thinking about Pagan coming to the ballpark and preparing himself and focused to play baseball. I don't want to create any distractions here. Like I said, I want to play right. I think it's best for the team. I think it's going to be best for me also, best for my knee. It's going to be less active than playing center field."
Pagan, a fellow Puerto Rican, said: "I feel really fortunate to be passed this torch from the player I always looked up to. I think having him right next to me is going to be a great plus for me. I'm going to keep looking up to him and keep trying to pick his brain. He's one of the best center fielders out there, and I'm trying to be like him."
Beltran, 33, is in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million contract. He has started three games in right field in his career, all in 2000 for the Kansas City Royals.
Beltran said he consulted with agent Scott Boras, his wife Jessica and former Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, who endorsed the move to prolong his career. He plans to enter Grapefruit League play in a week, after testing his right knee running the bases, and pledged to be ready for Opening Day.
Collins implied at the start of camp that he preferred Beltran play right field this season, but the manager said he respected the veteran enough to let him have an opportunity to demonstrate he can play center field in Grapefruit League games if that was his wish.
"I am impressed with the way this whole thing has been handled," the first-year manager said.
Beltran underwent surgery to clean out an arthritic right knee last January. That began a feud with the organization, which maintained it had not approved the procedure. When Beltran returned for the second half, he had decreased mobility.
Beltran joins other high-profile center fielders who have moved to right field, including Mike Cameron and Torii Hunter. Cameron's move actually came with the Mets after Beltran originally signed as a free agent with the organization.
"It's going to be less active," Beltran said about playing right field. "I'm looking forward to saving my knees for the long run."
Third baseman David Wright was among the teammates praising Beltran's selflessness.
"Any time you get a guy that's accomplished what Carlos has accomplished, and done the kind of things that Carlos has done in this game, to be that guy that really sees the big picture and sees what's best for this team and does something like that, it makes you want to go out there and really play united and play as a team," Wright said. "That probably takes a lot coming from a guy that's really accomplished what he's accomplished. Carlos wouldn't have done it if he didn't feel comfortable doing it. I just think it's a very selfless act.
"Like I said, baseball players have a lot of pride. To be able to kind of swallow that pride and look at what's best for the team and make that decision, says a lot about what Carlos is trying to accomplish here."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.