Mets 8, Nationals 2

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.