Mets should cool their jets on Carlos

Carlos Beltran could be a big factor in the second half -- as long as he's given proper time to heal. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- The Mets need to relax and reel it in a bit.

This talk, even in the smallest of terms, about Carlos Beltran returning ASAP is sheer craziness.

And the Mets, of all teams, should know better. The only thing they have done more of than choking down the stretch the past five years is leading the league in medical gaffes.

There's simply no need for Beltran to be rushed back.

If you're a Mets fans and you woke up on Friday morning to a story that Beltran -- coming off knee surgery -- could be back in center field as early as Monday when the Mets take on the Florida Marlins in Puerto Rico, your heart had to skip a beat.

But there was manager Jerry Manuel not ruling it out and adding gas to the fire by saying, "He might end up there. You never know.''

Thankfully, an executive told ESPNNewYork.com that Monday would be "too quick'' and it's "not going to happen.''

Did we mention that the field in Puerto Rico is Astroturf? Please. Talk about a bad idea times 10.

Beltran started playing in his first rehab game in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Thursday. Beltran was happy with how he felt out there for the first time. He'll continue to play this weekend, with the hopes of building even more confidence in his ability to play at the major-league level.

Even if he does well, there's simply no reason to rush Beltran, who could wind up being a big addition in the second half of the season. You have to believe that Beltran has a lot left and can help the Mets with his bat. The last thing the Mets need is Beltran to re-injure himself. It's just not worth it.

For sure, many can understand why Beltran would want to play in front of his family and fans in his home country. But this isn't the time to show off. The Mets, in case Beltran hasn't been informed, have a real shot at the playoffs.

Not only could they win the wild-card spot, they could do the unthinkable and win the National League East -- with help from Beltran, of course.

The Mets are playing well. They followed up an impressive 7-2 road trip by taking two of three from a decent Detroit Tigers squad, which is in second place in the America League Central.

It would be one thing if the Mets were in desperate need of Beltran and had a tough stretch of make-or-break games. That's just not the case.

What happens when he comes back? The three current outfielders have played well. So what will be done to get Beltran back in his starting gig in center?

It's simple. Beltran is inserted back in his spot. He didn't lose it to Angel Pagan because he didn't play well. He was injured. Players shouldn't lose their job because they got hurt.

Pagan, who has played well, is more versatile, and can spell all three positions in the outfield. With a lot of games and a long, hot summer ahead, Pagan will certainly get a lot of work.

"To be able to have Beltran back, whenever that time comes, with the four outfielders we have now, I think it's a good situation,'' Mets GM Omar Minaya said. "Jerry will be able to manage it the same way other managers have.

"It's a good situation. If it's a problem, it's a good problem.''

Some don't see it as fair. It is. Now, if Beltran comes back and struggles and isn't the player he was, then the job is, indeed, open to debate. That's why Beltran has to be as close to 100 percent as possible before his return. There can't be any excuses as to why he did something, especially when you have a healthy center fielder who is doing it all.

To make it all work, Manuel will have to make sure all four guys know what to expect, when they will and won't play. That's the manager's job to make it as smooth as possible. "I'm going to try to give them as much information about the playing time as possible,'' Manuel said. "It relieves them of questions. As a manager, if you can erase those as much as possible, it's [very] beneficial for the player.''

But getting Beltran back still should come later than sooner.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com

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