Carlos Beltran is off the disabled list, and he’ll be back in the heart of the New York Mets lineup Thursday night in San Francisco.

After 14 rehab games for the Single-A St. Lucie Mets, the five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover will provide a big boost to Jerry Manuel’s team, both in the lineup and in hopefully in the field.

Here are three different scenarios for his return…the best, worse, and most likely scenarios.


Best Case Scenario

Beltran plays 90 percent of the Mets remaining 74 games getting a day of rest every other week between August and the end of the season after having one days’ rest in his first two weeks back.

He plays in 68 games and bats .290 with 12 home runs, and his knee holds up enough to allow him to swipe a handful of bases. Five or six would be a nice return.

He plays Gold Glove-caliber defense for the last two months of the season after getting back to full speed, with just a couple errors and only a small number of balls he wasn’t able to track down.

Beltran’s reintroduction to batting cleanup in the Mets lineup will help Ike Davis and Jason Bay, and it will take some of the pressure off Jeff Francoeur who will be limited to situational hitting roles and fourth outfielder duties.

Angel Pagan continues to sparkle in right field, batting .300 for the second half, and the Mets supplant the Atlanta Braves at the head of the National League East.

The Mets were 10-15 against the Florida Marlins and the Washington Nationals—the two bottom teams in the division—in the first half, but Beltran provides a big enough upgrade over Francoeur’s bat to help the club win eight of the last 11 games against these two clubs.

Worst Case Scenario

Okay, the real worst case scenario is that Beltran blows out his knee in his first game back against the San Francisco Giants tonight and is sidelined for the rest of the 2010 season. 

The Mets trade him and his contract at the end of the year.

But for the sake of playing out the scenarios, let’s assume that Beltran isn’t put on the 60-day disabled list anytime soon.

What is more likely is that Beltran needs a couple days off each week for the second half of the season and goes on the 15-day disabled list towards the end of August.

He plays less than half of the team’s remaining games, between 30 and 35, but he is not his old self even in the games he starts.

He didn’t hit a single home run in his Minor League rehab stint in Port St. Lucie, and he struggles with his power swing like he did in his first year with the Mets in 2005.

Based on those ratios, Beltran goes yard just four times in the second half and bats .260, eventually having to bat fifth just to take some of the pressure off.

To compile the misery, he really is a clubhouse cancer on his return, alienating teammates and creating a negative locker room atmosphere.

The Mets seemed to have a lot of confidence before the break, too.

Likely Scenario

Beltran misses one game every other series, playing 62 games over the rest of the season.

He hits seven or eight home runs and bats for a decent average somewhere near his career .283 average.

He’s more likely to trade power for line drives when he comes back, so even if he struggles a little, a .275 clip is the minimum to expect.

On the field, he’s not going to get to every ball hit his way, especially while he still has his knee brace on.

He’s going to make a few errors, especially in that spacious center field and deep power alleys at Citi Field, but he still has a good arm if runners try to take that extra base on him.

Three or four errors and a couple outfield assists seem about right.

He plays well enough to keep Francoeur out of the lineup on a regular basis, but not that well that Francoeur has three months of pine time.

Pagan moves back into center when Beltran needs a day off, and Frenchie moves back into right.

The Mets are still going to be in the hunt all year, although they only secure a wild-card spot.

Still, if you had offered the Mets this scenario at the start of the year, they would probably have snapped your hand off.

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