BALTIMORE -- Manager Jerry Manuel floated an ambitious, unlikely proposal before the New York Mets opened a series against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday:
With the Mets playing three straight series in American League ballparks, why not activate center fielder Carlos Beltran from the disabled list and let him serve as designated hitter?
Beltran, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his arthritic right knee on Jan. 13 and was subsequently fitted for a brace, started serving as a designated hitter in extended spring training games in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a week ago. He advanced to playing three innings in center field Friday in an intrasquad game, although all of his activity has been in a highly structured environment, with Beltran running at his own pace.
Even Manuel seemed to know he was proposing something at the very least unorthodox, and more likely improbable.
The Mets next play at Cleveland before concluding the three-city American League swing next weekend at Yankee Stadium.
"I think if this trip would have maybe come a week later, I think we could have possibly DH'd him," Manuel said. "I could have taken care of him, you know? I'm still trying to do that. I'm still trying to get him. I don't know. I'm anxious to talk to [assistant GM] John Ricco. I'm anxious to talk to the people down there because I wanted to see how he felt first going in and out of the field.
"I think it's a natural time to use that DH," Manuel continued with a hearty laugh.
Ricco, who is on this leg of the trip with the Mets, applauded Manuel's ambitious plan, while making it seem even less likely to actually materialize.
"We never frown on optimism around here," Ricco said.
"There's been really no change in his status," the assistant GM said of Beltran. "He's continued to play in simulated games down at our complex with various minor leaguers who are there getting ready for their short seasons that will start up here shortly, and he's continuing to progress. But he's still not ready to go out yet on a formal rehab assignment."
So Beltran is ruled out for appearing as a DH next weekend in the Bronx?
"Yeah," Ricco said. "We haven't talked timetables, but that would be pretty aggressive at this point.
"He's pushing it, but there's a difference between doing it in a simulated game and doing it in a real live game. I don't want to put a percentage on it, but he's moving around pretty good. He hits and runs. I've seen a lot of the video of it. He'll push it sometimes and then he kind of plays as the game goes."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.