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Andy Behrens

Carlos Beltran slouches toward the Mets' outfield

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Last month, we instituted a blackout on all Carlos Beltran(notes) news until the Mets actually cleared him to play baseball at some professional level — not "participate in baseball activities" or DH in make-believe games, but legitimately play in a competitive environment.

On Thursday, Beltran finally appeared in a minor league game for Single-A St. Lucie, going 0-for-2 with a walk. He played five innings in center field, though he reportedly didn't have a ball hit his way. Beltran, as most of you know, has missed the first 72 games of New York's season following offseason surgery on his useless right knee. (It's basically a decorative knee at this point. Arguably the least valuable knee in baseball. Projected VORK: -12.9).

The Mets haven't disclosed an official timeline on Beltran's return, but manager Jerry Manuel sounds ready to write his name in the lineup card. This via MLB.com:

"I'm anxious to see how he responds tomorrow; that will be key," Manuel said. "If he plays well in these first couple games, he's going to be making phone calls to get up here."

The Mets have 20 days to recall Beltran once his rehab assignment starts, but Manuel refused to say that playing in Puerto Rico early next week [versus the Marlins] was out of the question.

"I think he'd push for it," Manuel said of Beltran, a native of Puerto Rico. "He would really have to be doing extremely well for that to happen. A lot of things would have to go right for him. It would be a tough sell for him to make that trip."

Following the game, Beltran told reporters that he and his peg-leg "felt great." If you've stashed him on your fantasy DL, you can now begin to plan for his return.

Beltran's comeback appears to be bad news for anyone who's invested in interim centerfielder Angel Pagan(notes). Even though he's been an essential contributor this year (41 runs, 14 steals, .302 AVG, 2.5 WAR), Pagan is about to become something less than an everyday player. Amazin' Avenue offered an excellent take on what should happen vs. what will happen when Beltran returns; Pagan likely gets an undeserved value reduction.

For the first time in months, Beltran earns a value bump. You can't reasonably expect him to run like the two-legged version of himself — he didn't attempt a steal in 19 late-season games in '09 — but you're allowed to hope for assistance in the power categories. Enjoy Beltran responsibly. Or better yet, trade him while he's ambulatory.

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Photo via US Presswire

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