KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Any optimism surrounding Carlos Beltran began to unravel Tuesday morning when the Mets announced that their new rightfielder had to be shut down because of tendinitis of the left knee. Although this latest setback does not involve the same knee that required surgery 14 months ago, both knees have been troublesome for Beltran, and every one of his longer DL stints evolved from a similar diagnosis.
"I started feeling it when I first started running here, the first couple days of spring training," Beltran told reporters Tuesday in Port St. Lucie. "I felt like I was compensating, and it got worse, worse, worse -- to the point where now I have to make sure it doesn't get worse than that."
With Beltran, the discomfort caused by his arthritic condition in both knees is a matter of degrees. It seems there is no way to make the pain disappear completely. He needed arthroscopic surgery to "clean out" both knees after the 2007 season. Beltran played 161 games the next year, but never has been the same physically since, following that with 81 in 2009 and 64 last season.
What's most disturbing about yesterday's revelation is that Beltran did very little running during the offseason, and had not appeared in a Grapefruit League game until Sunday, when he was limited to DH duties. Beltran described his effort level as "80 percent" in scoring from second base -- that was considered a major achievement -- but was kept out of the lineup Monday and Tuesday.
The Mets' plan is to sit Beltran for the next five days and treat him with anti-inflammatory medication. The hope is that he can return after Monday's break in the schedule, and the Mets insist it will be enough time to prepare him for Opening Day.
A week ago, Beltran's biggest concern was making the switch to rightfield. Now the Mets have to wonder if he is capable of staying on the field at all.
"Right now, we are not anticipating that he will start the year on the DL," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We're still within a reasonable time frame to get him ready, so I certainly don't expect that. He did say to me that this is a kind of situation where he could play on it. But it's March 8, so it's best to deal with it in a conservative way."
Beltran considered microfracture surgery for his right knee in January 2010 but decided against it when he was told it involved a ninth-month rehabilitation program. That allowed him to return during the second half of last season, but it seems like he's working his way back from the less invasive arthroscopic procedure.
Beltran's right knee also remains a concern. Beltran had planned to wear a brace on that leg this season, and manager Terry Collins already has looked ahead on the schedule to budget days off for him during the first half. That was before his left knee became a problem again.
"Clearly his focus was on the right knee," Alderson said, "so we'll see where this takes us."
In trying to build up the muscles around his right knee, Beltran made that leg stronger during the winter, and he believes the left knee has suffered as a result. Beltran also is putting much more strain on both legs since arriving in camp, and that does not bode well for his durability over a long season.
"There's nothing I can do about it," Beltran said of his chronic knee issues. "I have to deal with the situation."
So do the Mets, who now must look more closely at Fernando Martinez and Nick Evans, two players who could be part of any contingency plan, along with the anticipated backups, Scott Hairston and Willie Harris.
"At the moment, we're not scrambling for Plan B, C or D," Alderson said. "And we're certainly not looking outside the organization at this point. We've got plenty of time, and we'll see how it goes, but I'm very optimistic that he'll be ready to go."