Beltran hopes to return in three weeks

Updated: August 2, 2009, 12:18 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran took early batting practice on the field Saturday, an encouraging sign for the New York Mets' center fielder as he tries to return from a bone bruise on his right knee.

Beltran
Beltran

Sidelined since June 22, Beltran is one of 10 Mets on the disabled list. Before his teammates came out for pregame warmups, he took swings from both sides of the plate inside a mostly empty Citi Field.

Beltran looked a bit rusty, but was able to drive the ball. New York manager Jerry Manuel watched Beltran hit and said the five-time All-Star got through it comfortably.

"Today was more of an exercise than a critique of fundamentals," Manuel said. "As a hitter, I don't think it'll take long for him. I think it's just a matter of how much pain he can withstand on that knee when he gets in motion. I think that's the biggest issue."

Beltran said Wednesday he hopes to return in two to three weeks. He acknowledged, however, that his most recent MRI showed the bruise had not improved.

Asked if he thinks it's possible Beltran could come back that soon, a chuckling Manuel said: "I'm a spiritual man. I believe that's possible. I have faith."

The Mets have finally started to get some good news about a few of their injured stars. Former closer Billy Wagner, out all season following elbow-ligament replacement surgery, made his first minor league rehab appearance Friday and pitched well.

The left-hander struck out two in a perfect inning for Class A St. Lucie, throwing eight of 10 pitches for strikes. Wagner probably must work his way up to pitching on back-to-back days before he's activated, Manuel said, but the manager was encouraged.

"He could be very close," Manuel said.

Gary Sheffield, who leads the team with 10 home runs, is set to come off the disabled list before Sunday's game against Arizona. He has been out since July 18 with a strained right hamstring.

To make room for Sheffield, New York designated third-string catcher Robinson Cancel for assignment after Saturday night's 9-6 victory. Cancel was called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday because Brian Schneider was ailing.

Schneider received a cortisone shot for his balky left knee Wednesday and was back behind the plate Saturday night against the Diamondbacks. He hit an RBI double in a four-run fourth inning.

Speedy shortstop Jose Reyes, out since May with leg injuries, could try running the bases soon, though Manuel said the team must be "careful" with him.

The Mets are 6 games out in the NL wild-card race. Manuel said he thinks his team can make a run at the playoffs if it stays within striking distance and begins to get some injured stars back by mid-August.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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