Beltran returns to Mets lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Jerry Manuel had a spark in his step as he came to the ballpark Thursday, planning to write out the New York Mets' lineup card with both Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in it for the first time in more than a year.

"You go through the break and you're so anxious to write that lineup," Manuel said before the San Francisco Giants blanked the Mets 2-0. "I couldn't wait to get here to see what happens."

What happened was that Reyes still felt some pain on his sore right side and had to be scratched. Manuel still got the chance to enjoy the 2010 debut of Beltran, who returned from offseason surgery on his right knee.

Beltran batted cleanup and played center field. He went 1-for-4 against Tim Lincecum, who scattered six hits in his shutout. Beltran singled to right in the fourth inning and was subsequently caught stealing second.

"I was trying to pick up the catcher's sign," Beltran said. "I saw two fingers and I just felt that I was going to be able to make it. I guess when you drink too many coffees and too much sugar before the game, it makes you do crazy things."

The Mets are hoping he can spark their slumping offense in the second half. New York entered the second half 48-40 and in second place in the NL East, four games behind Atlanta.

"I'm not a savior," Beltran said. "I'm just going to come here and play the game hard and do my job like I had done in the past. I believe with everyone in the lineup, and adding myself, I believe I can help this team."

The Mets are hoping to get Reyes back at shortstop soon as well. They have not had both stars in the lineup together since last May 20 in Los Angeles. Reyes missed the rest of last season with a hamstring injury and Beltran missed 2½ months with a bone bruise on his right knee.

Beltran is fully recovered. The five-time All-Star played 14 games on a rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie before rejoining his teammates Sunday in New York before the All-Star break.

He took the three-day break to rest up and said Thursday felt just like Opening Day.

"For me it is," he said. "After being out for so long and not being able to be with the guys, it was tough. But at the same time, I felt all the sacrifice that I did in Port St. Lucie and rehabbing, that's paying off."

Beltran is in the sixth season of a $119 million, seven-year contract. He was limited to 81 games last season because of a painful bone bruise. He had arthroscopic surgery Jan. 13 in Colorado to clean out the arthritic area of his right knee.

The 33-year-old Beltran batted .367 (18-for-49) with no homers and five RBIs for St. Lucie. He had five doubles and scored five runs, spending time in center field and at designated hitter.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.