Commentary

Mets break bread with Beltran, bid adieu

As All-Star approves deal, teammates say Tuesday's dinner was Carlos' last supper

Updated: July 29, 2011, 9:20 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

CINCINNATI -- New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and fellow players sensed Carlos Beltran was saying goodbye when he took the team to a Cincinnati steakhouse after Tuesday's game.

"We were joking with him: 'You're doing this dinner because you're going to get traded,'" Reyes said.

"No, no, no," Beltran replied.

Yes, yes, yes, it turned out.

Beltran's No. 15 jersey still was hanging at his locker stall Wednesday, and he still technically was on the active roster. But players had seen the reports that a deal would send Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for, according ESPN's Buster Olney, right-handed pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

[+] EnlargeJose Reyes, Carlos Beltran
Al Bello/Getty ImagesJose Reyes thinks Carlos Beltran will be a perfect fit for the Giants. "He was perfect for us," he said.

Beltran came briefly to Great American Ball Park before the Mets beat the Reds, 8-2, to shake hands and thank his now-former teammates. He was due to fly to Philadelphia to join the Giants for their series finale against the Phillies. But Beltran left some items behind because San Francisco next plays back in Cincinnati against the Reds.

The deal cannot be announced until Thursday because there must be a 24-hour waiting period from when the deal is consummated until Beltran formally approves the deal. Commissioner Bud Selig also must formally approve the money transfer because it exceeds $1 million.

Manager Terry Collins indicated he would use Lucas Duda mostly in right field as the post-Beltran era begins. Duda homered for the second time this season in Wednesday's victory, the Mets' third straight against the Reds.

Duda, a natural first baseman, noted he is most comfortable at that infield position. He then listed left field as his next-most-comfortable spot, followed by right field, where he has now started all of four major league games.

"He better get comfortable really fast," Collins quipped pregame. "He's got about an hour and a half."

Duda, as well as Willie Harris, Scott Hairston and Jason Pridie, recently had been doing extra work in right field with outfield coach Mookie Wilson to prepare for the eventual trade of Beltran.

"I'm never going to be Carlos Beltran. I'm just going to be me," Duda said. "These are huge shoes to fill. And obviously we're going to lack out there. But whoever gets the opportunity to play out there is going to do their best."

Collins had slim pickings to replace Beltran's roster spot because the Triple-A squad had been decimated by injury -- Zach Lutz with a concussion, Fernando Martinez with a hip injury and Kirk Nieuwenhuis with season-ending shoulder surgery. Nick Evans, who just cleared waivers, will not be eligible to return until he spends 10 days in the minors. Until Evans can return, the Mets will promote a third catcher, Mike Nickeas.

Meanwhile, the Mets resolved not to give up in Beltran's absence. Harris went so far as to tell teammates that the Mets ought to rally, claim a playoff spot and then knock out Beltran's Giants.

"We're fortunate in this clubhouse," right-hander R.A. Dickey said. "We have developed a culture in this clubhouse where it's very important for people in here to be professional. You don't have to babysit guys like you have to in some other clubhouses maybe. So I don't fear that at all."

Said third baseman David Wright: "I've been together with him for a while now, so it's going to be kind of weird to look over and not see No. 15. I think everyone in here had a good time with Carlos. I think everyone in here appreciated what Carlos brought to the table. We'll be rooting for Carlos specifically, him as a player.

"You look at Carlos and Jose and me, and we've been together for quite a few years and we've experienced a little bit of good and quite a bit of bad. But throughout the whole process we've stuck together and had each others' backs. We wish things could have gone a different way a few of those years, but it is what it is."

Collins expressed appreciation with how Beltran willingly moved to right field, averting a thorny issue. The manager said he had three prickly situations in his first spring training at the helm -- how to deal with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez's reintegration to the team following legal troubles, and what position Beltran's knees would allow him to play.

"He made life simple," Collins said about Beltran.

Collins, though, added that if Giants manager Bruce Bochy called and asked, he would tell his counterpart Beltran is still capable of playing center field.

"There's no doubt in my mind," Collins said.

Asked how Beltran would fit in with the Giants, Reyes said: "Perfect."

The shortstop added: "He was perfect for us."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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