PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Carlos Beltran figured the Mets could tread water without him to start the season. But when he heard that Jose Reyes could be out for up to eight weeks because of a thyroid condition, even Beltran, a self-proclaimed optimist, feared that the loss of two stars for an extended period might be crippling for the Mets.
Just as it was a year ago.
"I'm just hoping and praying that this is for two weeks and not eight," Beltran said Friday. "To have him out for eight weeks will really hurt."
The Mets may get a better idea of that timetable in the coming days when Reyes' thyroid levels are tested again. As soon as those levels decrease to an acceptable number, Reyes can be cleared for baseball activities, and general manager Omar Minaya said next week will count as the second week in the recovery process.
Beltran showed up at camp Friday while two busloads of Mets were returning from a six-hour round trip to Fort Myers. Ten minutes after they arrived in Fort Myers, the Mets were told the game against the Twins was canceled because of rain.
Not that it mattered much to Beltran, who has been on his own schedule since having knee surgery in January. Beltran became upset with the Mets back then for saying he had the operation without the team's permission. But he refused to compare that experience with the miscommunication that apparently went on between the Mets and Reyes.
Beltran views his own situation as simple rehab. But Reyes' health issue has bigger ramifications than wins and losses.
"Right now, baseball, in his case, is secondary," Beltran said. "It has to be secondary. I know he wants to play, but his life is more important than anything else. We can't afford to have Jose on the field and something bad happens to him. We're not talking about an injury to a leg or a finger. We're talking about for him to function properly.
"He's a player that wants to be out there even if he's not 100 percent. I know he wants to be here, but he has to be smart, too."
Despite Reyes' setback, Beltran is trying to keep a positive outlook. He said his own rehab is progressing remarkably well and expects to begin baseball-related activities in early April. Beltran has been keeping sharp by tracking pitches while sitting on a chair in the batting cage and playing catch while seated.
Once Beltran gets his legs strong again and can run without pain, he believes it won't take much more than a week of games to prepare for his return to the lineup. He won't allow himself to think 2010 already is looking like a repeat of last season's injury-riddled catastrophe.
"I don't know if anyone here is thinking that way, but I'm not," he said. "You don't want anything bad to happen to key players. But Reyes is not hurt. He doesn't have an injury. He just has a problem. His body's fine. Physically, he looks amazing. He's in great shape. Once we get him back here, he's going to do everything he needs to do to be out there."
Notes & quotes: Because of Friday's rainout, the Mets shuffled their rotation. Oliver Perez, who was supposed to start Friday, will go Saturday against the Tigers. Johan Santana will start Sunday against the Marlins and John Maine, who was scheduled for Saturday, will pitch in a B game Sunday. Francisco Rodriguez will make his Grapefruit League debut Monday.