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The grind is Beltran's real test

The Mets' Carlos Beltran. (Mar. 6, 2011)

The Mets' Carlos Beltran. (Mar. 6, 2011) Credit: AP

MIAMI -- So how was Carlos Beltran's first night in rightfield?

"It's an easy job," Beltran said after the Mets' 6-2 loss to the Marlins on Friday. "I was looking at [Angel] Pagan running all over the place and I was like, 'Wow, that was me last year.' I didn't realize how much running I did out there."

Beltran had a mostly uneventful evening at his new position, chasing down a few balls, but nothing like Pagan's sprints to the jagged outfield wall that spans the gaps at Sun Life Stadium. Beltran went down meekly in his first two at-bats against Josh Johnson. But he later ripped a run-scoring double off the Florida ace during the Mets' seventh-inning rally and scored on Ike Davis' groundout.

Beltran also had a close-up view of John Buck's game-changing grand slam in the fourth inning. At first, Mike Pelfrey believed it would be a sacrifice fly, and Beltran thought he had a shot at catching it, too.

"When he hit it -- yes," Beltran said. "But when I saw the replay, no. The pitch was right there and [Buck] squared it up."

One of the Mets' most pressing concerns heading into spring training was whether Beltran would be willing to move from centerfield to rightfield. Once he agreed, the problem became getting him on the field after another knee problem slowed his progress.

Now the question becomes: How much longer will he be able to stay in right? After Friday night's game, Beltran said he's planning to start Saturday night, but he suggested he will sit Sunday. With Monday's break in the schedule, that would give him two days off before the Philadelphia series starts Tuesday.

"We talked about building things up early in the season," Beltran said. "This gives me the chance to do that."

The true test has begun, and Beltran has the daily grind ahead. He played in only three Grapefruit League games -- just two in rightfield -- so this still could feel like spring training for him. But now the adjustment will have real consequences for Beltran and the Mets.

"I'm comfortable," he said. "I know that it's going to take time for me to be 100 percent confident out there because [of] the read off the bat and things like that. It's a different view than what is in centerfield. But other than that, I feel great."

Manager Terry Collins can always pull him late for additional rest. The Mets expect to use Lucas Duda in left to replace Jason Bay, but he also could switch to the other corner against righthanded starters when Beltran needs a break.

"We set a plan down the other day," Collins said of Beltran's schedule. "That dialogue will still be on a daily basis with us."


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