Beltran debuts in Mets loss

March 13, 2008 6:11:30 PM PDT
Carlos Beltran played center field for the first time since offseason arthroscopic surgery on both knees, and felt like he was relearning the position. "The first fly ball, I felt like I didn't know what to do," the Mets' cleanup hitter said after a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. "It's been a lot of work for me."

Beltran played his first spring game at DH on Monday. The Cardinals game didn't offer that option, so he told manager Willie Randolph he'd give the outfield a try.

"I wanted to test it," Beltran said. "Right now, nine innings, I'm not ready to play nine innings. Today's game will give me more confidence for next time."

He went 1-for-2 with an RBI single and a walk and was lifted after batting in the fifth. Beltran said that was a good time to call it a day; he's not ready to play a full game yet.

"I'm not going to try to be a hero here," Beltran said. "I'm just going to try to be healthy for the season and be in the lineup as much as I can."

Beltran is entering the fourth year of a $119 million, seven-year contract, and batted .276 with 33 homers, 112 RBIs and 23 steals last season. He had arthroscopic surgery to relieve tendinitis.

"This is something that's not going to be done in a day," Beltran said. "It's going to take time."

Mike Pelfrey, a candidate for the fifth starting slot if Orlando Hernandez hasn't overcome a bunion that bothered him last year, allowed one earned run in 4 2-3 innings. Making his fourth spring start, he gave up six hits with two walks and a strikeout and threw 88 pitches.

He worked around both walks in the first, getting Adam Kennedy to fly out on the first pitch with the bases loaded for the third out. Pelfrey gave up an RBI single to Albert Pujols in the third and a run-scoring double to D'Angelo Jimenez in the fourth.

"I'm kind of disappointed that I fell behind a lot of guys," Pelfrey said. "If I'm more aggressive, maybe I don't have to work so hard."

Cardinals starter Braden Looper, a former Mets closer and like Pelfrey a product of Wichita State University, gave up four runs and seven hits in four innings. He was a victim of well-placed hits early but also gave up his share of solid shots.

Looper is 0-2 and has allowed 12 earned runs in 9 1-3 innings in three spring starts.

"I made some good pitches that got hit and I made some bad pitches they hit, too," Looper said. "Later on, I left some balls up that they hit.

"I've just got to continue battle and keep the ball down. I feel great physically."

Rico Washington's 10th-inning RBI single off Joselo Diaz was the game-winner. The Mets had taken the lead on Olmaedo Saenz' RBI double off Jason Motte in the ninth but gave it back on Jorge Sosa's wild pitch with runners on first and third in the bottom half.

Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus threw out Fernando Martinez at the plate trying to score on a fairly shallow flyout to end the top of the 10th.


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