- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Center fielder Carlos Beltran recited the customary prayer he says before hitting, then stepped into the batter's box in a major league game for the first time in 285 days. Six pitches later, Beltran had flied out to center field to end the top of the first inning Thursday at AT&T Park.
Beltran, playing his first big league game since Jan. 13 arthroscopic surgery to address an arthritic right knee, went 1-for-4 against two-time reigning National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who produced his fourth career shutout. Beltran also was caught stealing in his lone attempt.
The Mets, who played without shortstop Jose Reyes due to continued right oblique discomfort, fell five games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Yet, having Beltran back mitigated that disappointment.
"It was a good feeling for me just to be out there," Beltran said. "I feel like I got called up. I feel like it was my first at-bat in the big leagues. That's how I felt. I guess as a player when you feel like that, it really shows at least that I still have a passion for what I do. That was good to see today."
Beltran was unusually glib both before and after the game.
In 14 rehab games with Class A St. Lucie, Beltran did not attempt a stolen base. Yet after singling through the right side of the infield in his second at-bat Thursday, Beltran spotted rookie catcher Buster Posey put down two fingers to request a curveball from Lincecum and decided he would break for second base.
"I guess when you drink too many coffees and too much sugar before the game, it makes you do crazy things," joked Beltran, who actually had attempted steals of third base a few times in the minors, although the batters swung and he never officially had an attempt.
After Beltran's first-inning flyout and fourth-inning single, he also was retired on a weak comebacker to Lincecum in the sixth and a groundout to second base in the ninth. He confessed to being drained afterward.
"By the last at-bat I was tired," Beltran said. "But I went through a lot of workout today. I hit a lot. I wanted to just get some of the energy away."
Judging by his performance against Lincecum perhaps isn't a good barometer of where Beltran is in terms of sharpness at the plate. He wasn't sure how long it would take to truly feel comfortable.
Beltran noted that he will have a different type of test on Friday, since the Giants are throwing southpaw Barry Zito. The switch-hitting Beltran, who has been assigned to the cleanup spot by manager Jerry Manuel, did not see much left-handed pitching with Port St. Lucie.
Beltran pledged to show up for extra batting practice to give himself every opportunity to be sharp.
"It's going to take a while," Beltran said. "I was able to see the changeup good and the curveball good, but it's just one day. Tomorrow could be a different story."
Despite wearing a knee brace, Beltran was unconcerned about how he will feel when he wakes up Friday morning.
"I'm going to be fine," he said. "I was able to play like five to six straight games in Port St. Lucie. So being able to play back-to-back is not a concern for me."
The Mets can't muster a run in road loss, but at least Carlos Beltran is back.