Carlos Beltran probably won't make his 2011 spring training debut until early next week and even then only as a designated hitter.
The former three-time Gold Glove winner has been rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee as he prepares for his 14th Major League season. And it was the knee that had him meeting with manager Terry Collins Monday morning about moving from center field to right field.
Now it's official.
“As a manager, when you’re facing a situation where you are going to make a position change with a star player, you’re hoping and praying it goes like this,” Collins said, “that the star walks in and tells you, ‘Hey, this is what’s best for the team.’ ”
It's not always the case that the team's best player willingly steps out of the spotlight. But in this case the move from center to right should prolong Beltran's career and give Angel Pagan a chance to shine in a role where he had much success during the first half of the 2010 season.
"In my heart, I still feel I can play center field," Beltran began. "But at the same time this isn't all about Carlos -- it's about the team. In order for me to be able to play center field, I need more time. And I want to be on the same page with everyone here."
Beltran continued: "I didn't want a decision like this to be made the last day of the camp. I wanted this decision to get over early, so we could get this over with and focus and play ball. We have to focus on playing baseball, and that's it."
Earlier this month Pagan admitted, "If Carlos is healthy, he'll be the center fielder. No doubt about that."
On Monday afternoon he said, "I feel really fortunate to be passed this torch from a player I always looked up to. … He's one of the best center fielders out there, and I'm trying to be like him."
Beltran is in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million deal. You would have to imagine that how well he plays on a reconstructed knee in a new position will determine his future.
If he bounces back, Beltran could get one last payday as an everyday player. If he struggles, a permanent role as a designated hitter could be his fate.