Beltran focused on continued success, health
FEB 19, 2013 7:33a ET
"I told my wife that I don't pay attention to my waist down," Beltran joked. "If something hurts, I ignore it and continue to move forward because it's part of baseball."
Beltran's first year with the Cardinals couldn't have gone much better a season ago. The right-fielder hit .269 and slugged 32 home runs and 97 RBI, helping him earn a selection to his seventh All-Star Game.
But the most important number or statistic from last season may have been his 151 games played, his most since 2008 and his second highest total since 2004. After dealing with injuries to both of his knees during his final years with the New York Mets, Beltran was able to avoid any serious issues in his first year in St. Louis.
"I think I did what I needed to do," Beltran said. "When it was time to take a break I did that and we were smart about it and when it was time to push it, I did, because there was no looking back.
"I felt great. I came here with a mentality of at least having a chance to be in the playoffs and the Cardinals gave me that chance and the whole team gave me that chance to experience it again."
Beltran didn't finish the season healthy though. Not even close. Without disclosing much of his aches and pains to the media, Beltran continued to fight through a number of injuries down the stretch and in the playoffs.
"I was dealing a few issues, my forearm was really bothering me, my left knee was kind of sore," Beltran admitted. "But thanks God I feel great now."
A veteran of 1,919 games in the Major Leagues and holder of 334 home runs, 1,243 RBI, 1,267 runs scored and three Gold Gloves, Beltran hopes to have learned how to deal with nagging injuries and keep himself on the field on a daily basis moving forward.
His ability to stay on the field will be huge to the Cardinals chances of getting back to the playoffs in 2013. Top prospect Oscar Taveras, who Beltran has been mentoring this spring, is waiting in the wings but the club would prefer to let him get more seasoning at Triple-A Memphis.
Beltran replaced some of the void left when Albert Pujols left to join the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last winter and the Cardinals will again count of him to provide thunder somewhere in the middle of their lineup this year.
"He did a great job for us and had a tremendous season," said manager Mike Matheny. "He's another guy whenw e talk about not being complacent, he's already making statements about how he thinks he's going to have a better year. That's encouraging.
"I just love having him around. He's somebody that the players look up to and the staff and he goes about his business the right way and obviously there's a lot of talent there."
Beltran has taken the young phenom Taveras under his wing and plans to continue offering him tips throughout spring training. He spent time Monday talking with him about going back towards the outfield wall on deep fly balls in the outfield.
The Cardinals plan to try and give Beltran more rest both this spring and during the season to ensure he remains as healthy as possible. Matheny tried to give Beltran more rest last year but the outfielder was producing so much at the plate that he had a hard time getting him out of the lineup.
A year older, the 35-year-old Beltran admitted he may need to be smarter about his playing time this season.
"When you are a ballplayer and you like to compete, sometimes its hard for you to say I need a day off," Beltran said. "You want to go out there and compete, you want to go out there because you feel you can help the team win ballgames, but sometimes (a day off) is not a bad idea. Sometimes when you are a little banged up, it's better to take a day than continue to push it and that day will turn into a week off because you will end up hurting yourself.
"Right now I feel healthy and I know Mike did a good job communicating with me last year. He tried to do the best he could to give me some days but at the same time, when your swinging the bat well and you feel good in the field and the manager comes to you and says today I feel it's a good day for you (to sit), its hard for a player to say yes because you don't want to let that go."
In addition to staying healthy Beltran's number one goal for 2013 remains to play in the World Series. The Game 7 loss in San Francisco last October was his third loss in a Game 7 of the NLCS, having lost to the Cardinals twice previously, in 2004 with Houston and 2006 with the Mets.
Beltran has yet to experience the World Series. And as his close calls continue to rise and his years left continue to dwindle, he wonders whether or not he'll ever get that chance.
"Who knows man," Beltran said. "It is what it is I guess. I know there have been a lot of players who have played this game for many years and have never won a championship so maybe I am one of those? I mean who knows."
The Cardinals hope to help get him his first ring. And keeping him healthy could play a huge role in making that happen.