Beltran feels comfortable after rehab stint

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Carlos Beltran's road back to the major leagues hasn't been too smooth. At least not until the bottom of the ninth inning last night at KeySpan Park.

The Mets' centerfielder, who no hits in his 12 previous at- bats, chopped a walk-off single down the rightfield line to drive in Robbie Shields and give the Cyclones a 4-3 win over the Lowell Spinners.

Beltran, who's been on the DL since June 22 with a bone bruise below his right knee, finished 1-for-5 with a strikeout and an RBI.

Beltran said he isn't too concerned about his lack of offense during his four-game rehab stint. Getting his knee to 100 percent and returning to the Mets is paramount.

"I was expecting this," Beltran said of his struggles at the plate. "But I'm not worried about results right now. I'm just worried about my knee . . . Going out there and not feeling anything."

That fact that he was able to play a full nine innings in centerfield was a step in the right direction. He's expecting to do the same Sunday.

"I feel good . . . Being able to play nine. It's progress for me,'' he said. "[Today] my goal is to play nine again, back-to-back, and go from there."

As for his knee, Beltran said he's at the point that he doesn't feel any pain and has resumed playing the way he did before he got hurt.

"I don't feel anything, thank God," he said. "I'm not really thinking that I have to be careful. I'm just playing the game the way I play the game."

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So how close is he to donning a Mets uniform again? There's no exact date for his return, but Beltran sure sounded like a man who anxiously wants to get back to Flushing.

"I just want to be there," Beltran said. "By Tuesday, Monday . . . I know Monday's a day off, but Tuesday would be great. I just want to be there."

With the Cyclones' final game of the regular season Sunday, an announcement about Beltran's immediate future should be forthcoming.

His feelings aside, Beltran isn't going to push the matter with Mets management.

"That's something that the Mets will decide,'' he said. "I told [general manager Omar Minaya] today that I'm ready to go upstairs with the boys.

"Timing will come. So I'm not worried about [hitting]. For me, it's most important not to feel anything in my knee.''

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