VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Carlos Beltran looks ready for opening day.
The All-Star outfielder, bothered by both knees this spring, got a hit and made a nice, sliding catch Tuesday as the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 8-2.
``I feel good,' Beltran said after going 1 for 3. ``I feel like I had good at_bats and was able to see a lot of pitches.'
The game marked Beltran's first appearance in a major league exhibition since he was the designated hitter three weeks ago. Assuming he gets through Wednesday's final spring training game against the Marlins, he should be set to go when the Mets open the season Friday night at Florida.
``I thought he looked great and it was tremendous seeing him back in the lineup,' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ``It makes a huge difference in our lineup with him hitting fourth.'
Beltran delivered a first-inning single, but the real indication of his health came in the bottom of the fourth, when he came sliding in toward the right-field line to snag a sinking liner by Jerry Hairston Jr.
``Yeah, it was a good play, but at the same time ... there are going to be plays where I have to slide,' Beltran said. ``I have to do it. I can't protect anything. I have to go for it and try to catch the ball.'
The Mets are counting on that. They moved the three-time Gold Glove winner from center field to right in part because of the emergence of Angel Pagan in center field, but also to protect Beltran's surgically-repaired right knee and his troublesome left knee, which has tendinitis.
Beltran recently took part in a simulated game and played in two minor league games. The 33-year-old was happy to be around his teammates and playing against major league competition.
``It's more energy, for sure,' Beltran said. ``Going and playing in the minor leagues it's boring, honestly.'
The Mets' joy of Beltran's return was tempered by the news that left fielder Jason Bay felt discomfort in his left rib cage during batting practice Tuesday and was scratched from the lineup. Bay returned to Port St. Lucie to be examined by team doctors. The Mets will have until Thursday to decide whether or not to put him on the disabled list.
``At this particular time, we have to be very cautious, because I dont want to lose this guy for a month.' Collins said.
Washington, meanwhile, was able to get through the spring without any major health concerns.
The Nationals won five of their last seven games and finished 15-14 this spring. Manager Jim Riggleman cited the emergence of Michael Morse as the starter in left field and Rick Ankiel in center as two of the team's biggest accomplishments in preparation for this season.
``I feel real good about the ballclub,' Riggleman said. ``I'm anxious to see how good we can pitch with this athleticism behind us. That's going to be huge as to how good we can be. I feel we'll have a good offensive ballclub, but ... everybody goes through periods where you're just not getting it done offensively for a few days.'
NOTES: Nationals starter RHP Jordan Zimmermann only went three innings and threw 32 pitches in the second inning alone, giving up four earned runs. He said he was rushing himself too much. ... Washington reliever Drew Storen had a poor outing in his final spring appearance. He gave up four runs on seven hits and threw 35 pitches in just two-thirds of an inning. ... Nationals LHP Sean Burnett threw a scoreless inning. He did not give up a run in 9 1-3 innings this spring. ... Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche hit a solo home run in the fourth. C Ivan Rodriguez played two innings at first base. ... Mets LHP Pat Misch has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to the minor leagues. He is expected to accept the assignment. ... The Mets also selected the contracts of RHP Blaine Boyer and ultility man Willie Harris from Triple-A Buffalo and designated RHP Manny Acosta for assignment.
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