Will Cards’ Beltran pay up on nose job?

A casual conversation in the New York Mets clubhouse last year led to outfielder Carlos Beltran telling left-hander Jon Niese that he would pay for Niese’s nose job.

A casual conversation in the New York Mets clubhouse last year led to outfielder Carlos Beltran telling left-hander Jon Niese that he would pay for Niese’s nose job.

Well, Niese had the surgery during the offseason and sent Beltran the bill — for around $10,000.

Earlier this spring, Beltran told reporters that he would pay Niese in person. He had the chance Tuesday, when the St. Louis Cardinals — Beltran’s current team — traveled to play a Grapefruit League game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

But Beltran told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com on Tuesday that he would not pay Niese.

Beltran said he expects to serve as the designated hitter against the Mets. He hasn’t played the outfield in a game this spring, because he’s working through stiffness in his throwing shoulder. Beltran said he’s currently taking medication to ease the inflammation.

“I don’t feel it at all when I swing,” he said. “I’m not concerned, actually. Every spring you go through stretches where your shoulder gets tired — your forearm, your biceps. … It’s not a big deal.”

Tuesday’s game will mark Beltran’s first action against the Mets since they dealt him to the San Francisco Giants last July, ending a New York tenure that began in 2005. Beltran signed a two-year, $26 million contract with the Cardinals during the offseason, as part of the team’s effort to replace the production lost when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels.

Beltran said he’s kept in touch with Mets head athletic trainer Ray Ramirez, who became a close friend of Beltran’s during his time there.

“It’s going to be fine,” Beltran said of facing his former team. “I’m going to go out and try to have my approach at the plate. But at the same time, it’s always good to see guys you played with for a long time. There’s good people there. It’s going to be fine — a little bit different, but it’s part of it.”

Beltran arrived in New York after the 2004 season along with future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez, as the Mets made a resounding statement about their intentions to spend money and win championships. Now, the Mets are viewed as a possible last-place team in the National League East after lopping roughly $50 million from their payroll since this time last year.

“I think they’re going in a different direction,” Beltran said. “You have to be a little frustrated for the fans, knowing probably the team isn’t going to be what the fans really want to see out there. But at the end of the day, they have prospects, players who are going to be good one day. But when that day’s going to be, only God knows.”

Beltran chuckled when asked what the Mets must do to become competitive again. “That’s a question you have to ask Sandy (Alderson),” he replied. But Beltran mentioned several younger Mets by name, saying they impressed him during his time with the organization: Ike Davis (“I think Ike Davis is going to be a great player”); Ruben Tejada (“A good defensive player”); Daniel Murphy (“He’s got potential of becoming a good hitter”); Niese (“The potential to be a great pitcher”); and Bobby Parnell.

Beltran expressed empathy for David Wright, the five-time All-Star third baseman who was limited to 102 games last year and received a cortisone shot Monday because of a ribcage injury.

“It’s tough,” Beltran said. “He’s a good player, a good human being, a good teammate while I was there. It’s sad you see a guy the caliber of him (have these injuries). I think he’s going to be fine. You have to be cautious about an injury like that. Sometimes you feel you’re ready to go, you push it and it gets worse. He will be smart enough to take care of himself. When he’s ready to go, he’s going to be out there competing, because he’s a competitor.”  

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