Carlos Beltran out third straight game

SAN FRANCISCO -- St. Louis Cardinals slugger Carlos Beltran was out of the lineup Wednesday night for a third straight game with a sore right knee, though he and manager Mike Matheny believe he will avoid a stint on the disabled list.

"It's better," said Beltran, batting .295 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs. "We're treating this day to day. It's not better to the point that I can go out and play a game."

Matheny said Beltran could have played in Wednesday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants, but with the cool Bay Area weather it wasn't worth risking further problems. Beltran could play Thursday afternoon's finale at AT&T Park against the club with which he finished the 2011 season.

"I've been hoping he'd be available for 162 of them. But that hasn't quite worked," Matheny, a former Giants catcher, quipped. "He's been real smart. He could be going out there, but this weather, too, the knee doesn't react as well and it's hard to get it going. We'll give him another day and we'll check him out tomorrow."

Beltran said he never received a call from the Giants during the winter about bringing him back, but they did have repeated conversations with his representatives according to San Francisco vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans.

"We talked within the parameters of what we could do," Evans said of Beltran, who was acquired by the Giants in a trade from the New York Mets last July 28.

The slugger batted .360 with an NL-best six homers, 13 RBIs and eight runs scored last week to earn NL Player of the Week honors. The knee doesn't bother him hitting.

"Right now I feel good at the plate, and then all of a sudden I feel soreness and stiffness," he said.

Team doctors planned to examine Beltran again. He also has been bothered by his right foot, which he said could be from compensating for the knee. The knee is still considered the primary issue.

Matheny also rested catcher Yadier Molina after he played the two previous games and with a day game Thursday.

"We have a few guys like that. We'll have to go day to day and see how they feel," Matheny said. "We expect them to be honest and not just grind through, because I think we'll pay in the long run. If they're smart about it and tell us when they've got something small here or there, then we can stay ahead of it and hopefully keep them in there for long stretches of time and effectiveness, too."