Carlos Beltran ran pain-free for the first time this season on Wednesday. Beltran also told the press he hopes to rejoin the Mets soon. 

Newsday’s David Lennon posted on his Twitter account that the 32-year-old center fielder took four laps around a baseball field in Port St. Lucie, Fl. this afternoon, and later took batting practice.

Beltran has had knee problems over the past few years. The condition limited him to 81 games in 2009.

There were some questions in the off-season about what kind of knee surgery Beltran would need. Some suggested micro fracture surgery, which requires a nine-month rehab process. The procedure would have kept Beltran from playing at all in 2010.

Instead, Beltran had arthroscopic surgery to clean out his troublesome right knee in January. The medical staff originally expected him to be back with the Major League club at the beginning of May.

Beltran has experienced setbacks from the beginning of his rehab, however. Last month, the pain in his knee was so severe that he couldn’t run more than one minute on a treadmill. 

The Wednesday jogging session is an encouraging development for Mets brass, who expressed their frustration last January that Beltran, who unilaterally decided to have surgery, needed such extensive rehab.

That is all in the past now, however, as the hovering Mets desperately need some extra power in their lineup. The Mets, it’s safe to say, didn’t expect catcher Rod Barajas to lead the team with a modest .567 slugging percentage.

Left-fielder Jason Bay, who the Mets signed in the off-season under the expectation that they were adding a power bat to their outfield, has just one home run, 15 RBI and a .392 slugging percentage during the first month-and-a-half of the season. 

In addition to his light running, Beltran took batting practice. According to observers, the switch-hitting Beltran hit home runs on 12 of the last 20 balls, from both sides of the plate.

Beltran said he hopes to sprint by the end of next week, and run the bases soon after.

Lingering questions remain, including whether the knee will allow Beltran to return to center field, the position the three-time Gold Glover has played his entire career.

Mets’ General Manager Omar Minaya also said this week that no timetable could be set for Beltran’s return until he starts baseball activities. Beltran will have to wear a knee brace in any case, something he has done in previous seasons. 

Beltran, for his part, just wants to play, with or without the extra equipment. 

“I’m just looking forward to getting out of here, man,” he said of the Mets’ minor-league complex. “I’m tired of Port St. Lucie. I want to be with the boys. I know they’re fighting and they’re playing better baseball. I believe with me being on the team, I can help.”

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