The clock on Carlos Beltran's rehabilitation will finally start Thursday, when he plays an official game for Class A St. Lucie. Major-league rules dictate that a position player's rehabilitation calendar can last no longer than 20 days.

If you project ahead, the full 20 days for Beltran would take him through July 13, the night of the All-Star Game. The Mets start playing again, after the break, on July 15 in San Francisco. That would be an excellent projection of when he'll play for the Mets. Beltran and the Mets have been so cautious and conservative so far with this right knee injury. Why push it now?

The bulk of the pre-game talk centered on how Beltran's arrival will impact the Mets, and it will indeed be fascinating. How will Angel Pagan deal with reverting to his old role as the fourth outfielder? If Jeff Francoeur turns into Bad Frenchy again, will Jerry Manuel stick him on the bench the bulk of the time? And what if Beltran needs the sort of time to rev back up to speed as Jose Reyes did, or - even worse for everyone - what if Beltran simply isn't as good a player anymore?

Should be interesting. For now, we'll simply monitor Beltran from afar.

--Interesting column by Steve Popper of The Record, who called out Jerry Manuel for his joke Saturday about John Maine - that Maine can pitch "off days." 

I agree that Manuel has a bad habit of doing this, most notably with the Ryan Church mess last year. However, I'm not sure Manuel has much to lose here in his battle with Maine. My sense is that Maine doesn't have much support at all in the Mets' clubhouse, and it's hard to think that Maine has much left to offer at this point.

Meanwhile, Maine is getting a second opinion on his shoulder, the Mets said yesterday. One thing to keep in mind: Because Maine has less than five years' service time, the Mets can likely store him in the minors, unless Maine is willing to give up what's left (roughly $2 million, at the moment) of his $3.3 million salary.

Here's how it would work: The Mets would designate Maine for assignment. Then they'd put him on irrevocable waivers. If a team claimed him, Maine would go to that team, and that team would pick up the tab.

Is that going to happen? Highly unlikely. Therefore, the Mets, if they're so inclined - and why wouldn't they be? I read somewhere you can never have enough pitching - can then outright Maine to Triple-A Buffalo.

If Maine is unhappy enough that he's willing to forfeit $2 million, then he can go on his way, and the Mets would have more money to pay a trade acquisition. If Maine realizes that he wants to get paid, though, then he'd have to accept the assignment.

Thanks to MetsBlog for the link to Popper's column.

--This marks the first time that Jerry Manuel and Jim Leyland will manage against each other in a game that counts. Manuel played for Leyland at Triple-A Evansville (a Tigers affiliate) in 1979, and Manuel then worked as Leyland's bench coach with the 1997 Marlins, who won the World Series title.

"One of the best," the gruffly entertaining Leyland said, when I asked him about Manuel. "He’s a good man. He’s an honest man. He’s a good baseball man. He tells it like it is. Tehre’s no __  about it. He doesn’t pull any punches. What you see is what you get. That’s the way it is. He’s always been that way. He was that way as a young player. He’s been that way as a coach.

"I love him to death. Outstanding baseball man. He’s an outstanding human being. I think the world of him."

Manuel on Leyland: "I learned a tremendous amount from Jim Leyland. He and Felipe Alou have probably had the most impact on my strategy - the little strategy you guys say I have. My strategy of managing.

"There were times in Evansville when I'd ride to the park with the manager. We asked him questions about different things. I had an opportunity to be his bench coach in Florida. Never once, when you asked him a question, did you feel like you were second-guessing. He never treated it that way. He took the time to explain, explain why he did certain things.

"Just a tremendous, tremendous baseball man that I was fortunate – really blessed – to grasp things from him."

When I confirmed with Leyland that he and Manuel had never faced each other as managers, besides spring training, Leyland said, "We’re really not facing each other. David Wright is facing Cabrera. Jerry and I, we’re just kind of tagging along."

Yes, Leyland is highly entertaining. He's old school. He was around when the schedule was unbalanced the first time, and when Leyland's Pirates would come to Shea Stadium three times a season.

When a writer mentioned that Justin Verlander, tonight's Tigers starting pitcher, bragged about his hitting, Leyland said, "Verlander needs to worry about his pitching. Not his hitting. He can't hit __."

--With the Yankees in Arizona, Jack Curry caught up with Luis Gonzalez, and I agree with Jack's theory: Mariano Rivera's continued success makes Gonzalez big hit (in the 2001 World Series) all the more special.

Meanwhile, Jorge Posada is starting his second straight game at catcher. It's an encouraging sign for the Yankees, obviously, that Posada feels healthy enough to try this.

--This is surprising: Mark Teixeira was so upset over the death of Kurt Cobain, back in 1994, that he called himself "Kurt Teixeira" for a while. Thanks to Deadspin, via Twitter, for the link.

--Remember Gerrit Cole, the Yankees' first-round draft pick of 2008 who got away? He's dealing for UCLA, and, as you can see in the linked story, he and the Yankees maintain good relations. It'll be interesting to see if Cole slips down far enough in the draft for the Yankees to take another shot at him, and what the Yankees would do if that opportunity presented itself again.

--Here are the rosters for the Futures Game. I'd think that, looking at the representatives from the two New York teams, Austin Romine will be my primary person of interest.

--Have a great night.

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