ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Carlos Beltran hadn't played in the outfield in more than three months but, in his words, "it's time."
The 37-year-old, troubled by a bone spur in his right elbow much of the season, started in rightfield for the first time since May 10 on Saturday. He had an uneventful afternoon, catching the only ball hit to him, Evan Longoria's routine fly in the eighth.
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Beltran had been on a throwing program for nearly two months while trying to get his elbow in shape but experienced a couple of setbacks. Finally, the last week told him it was time to give the outfield a try.
"Putting my arm in condition to be back in the outfield took a while," Beltran said before going 0-for-4. "Right now, I've been throwing and I don't feel anything."
When Beltran went to the disabled list May 13 with the bone spur, surgery seemed inevitable. But he received a cortisone shot, and after a May 20 visit to Dr. James Andrews, he received word that surgery could be put off until after the season. So Beltran received another cortisone shot and continued rehabbing.
"I always try to be positive, but the pain I was feeling was very strong," said Beltran, saying he felt at the time of the injury that he wouldn't be able to avoid in-season surgery. "Based on the second opinion I had in Alabama, the doctor was like it was a 50-50 chance I would get better by not . Thank God I ended up in the good 50. Like I said, I'm happy. I'm not happy with the way things have gone, but at the end of the day, you have to look at the positive side."
Why was it so important to him to get back in the field? "I've always been an outfielder, I was never a DH," he said. "So that's where I belong, the outfield."
Joe Girardi prudently wasn't ready to declare Beltran his everyday rightfielder yet. "Let's go day by day," he said. "I don't want to make a decision too quickly here."
Brian McCann was eligible to come off the seven-day concussion disabled list Saturday, but after watching the catcher go through batting practice Friday, Girardi wanted to give him one more day.
"He looked better to me today," he said. "But that's normal for an athlete, I think, when you don't do anything for five days because you're so used to it."
McCann said he felt good Saturday and expects, barring something unforeseen, to return Sunday.
Rookie Shane Greene again was tremendous, striking out a career-best 10 in six innings-plus.
"My cutter was really good today, so I was kind of working off of that," said Greene, who allowed two runs, seven hits and one walk and has a 2.91 ERA.
Greene has allowed two earned runs in 14 innings in his last two starts. "He had everything today," Girardi said. "His sinker was really good, his cutter was good, his slider was good and his changeup was good. He used them really effectively."