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Carlos Beltran starts after missing 2 games with sore knee

Carlos Beltran #36 of the New York Yankees

Carlos Beltran #36 of the New York Yankees follows through on a third-inning RBI single against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on Friday, June 10, 2016. Credit: Jim McIsaac

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Girardi put Carlos Beltran’s name back in the lineup Thursday after a two-game absence, but that didn’t mean he thought the rightfielder’s left knee no longer was an issue.

“Well, I’m not quite sure we have him back yet,” Girardi said before the Yankees started a four-game series against the Twins at Target Field. “He’s got to go through BP and make sure he’s all right. He really hasn’t done anything. We’ll have him run a little bit in the outfield. But if it goes according to plan, yes, a lot of relief.”

Beltran sat out both games in Denver, where his left knee mysteriously swelled Tuesday morning and was drained that night. After he got through his pregame work without any setbacks, he started in rightfield and batted third.

Still, Girardi’s initial response and cautionary tone were telling. Beltran, after all, is 39 years old with a history of knee trouble. His right knee has long been an issue, but until Tuesday, Beltran’s left knee had not presented many problems.

“I’ll watch closely to see if there’s a little bit of a limp there or anything else,” Girardi said. “I told him before today’s game, ‘I’m going to put you in the lineup, but if you feel anything and you think another day would help, I’d rather you take today than have it take three or four more days because you played today.’ ”

The Yankees (31-34) entered on a four-game losing streak and in last place in the AL East. The last thing they need is a lingering injury for Beltran, who received a cortisone shot in Denver. He leads the club in homers (16), RBIs (44), slugging (.554) and OPS (.866).

“Right now it feels good, the whole range of motion seems to be back,” Beltran said before testing the knee pregame. “There’s still a little bit of fluid, but nothing compared to when it was inflamed. The cortisone is doing the job.”

Beltran said even with his knee feeling the way it did in Denver, he was able to work on his hitting. “(Wednesday) I hit in the cage, I did a lot of work in the cage the day before,” he said. “Being able to hit is not an issue. Running is something I haven’t done, so I will do it when I go out.”

Beltran said he was not yet concerned. “I have had knee injuries, and normally you don’t recuperate so fast, so just being able to feel better in two days for me, I feel good about it,” he said. “The only way I will know is being able to go out there and play the games and see how I respond.”

As for what caused the swelling, it remains a mystery.

“I have no idea,” Beltran said. “I played all those games at home and I didn’t visit the training room. Before that, my hamstring was a little bit tight but I was able to play through it and it got better. My knee wasn’t an issue. I don’t know how it happened. Swear to God.”

Which is part of the reason Girardi said he found the whole circumstance “a little bit” concerning.

“That’s why we gave him the two days and we’re trying to make sure that he’s OK before he goes out there today,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of mileage on those legs and there is concern, but hopefully we get through it.”

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