Pagan agrees Beltran should be CF for Mets

Angel Pagan is prepared to hand center field back to a healthy

Carlos Beltran.

Pagan started in center for the New York Mets during the first

half of last season while Beltran recovered from knee surgery. New

manager Terry Collins said this week that he envisions Beltran in

center, and Pagan agrees.

”If Carlos is healthy, he’ll be the center fielder, no doubt

about that,” Pagan said Friday after arriving at spring training.

”I’m just looking forward to seeing him healthy because if he is

healthy, we all know what kind of damage he can do.”

Beltran has to demonstrate that his knees allow him to cover

enough ground in center. If he doesn’t show that, he could be

shifted to right – which would land Pagan back in center.

Collins said Friday he hopes to have a decision by middle of

spring training.

”I’m just going to bring the best I can bring to the team,”

Pagan said. ”It doesn’t matter if it’s in center field, right

field, whatever. I just want to be the best I can be for the

organization to have a successful season and see if we can make it

to the playoffs.”

Pagan had a .985 fielding percentage in 94 games in center last

year, and he hit .290 with 11 homers and 69 RBIs. Beltran batted

.255 with seven homers, playing 33 error-free games in the

field.

This is the first time Pagan has arrived at spring training as a

projected starter. He said the discussion over who should be in

center makes him uncomfortable.

”Sometimes people see this as a competition, a rivalry,” Pagan

said. ”This is not a rivalry. This is for the benefit of the team.

I see this as a great problem to have because we are going to have

two center fielders playing right next to each other, and with

Jason Bay (in left), the guy’s got great defense, too. So if you

see that, you’re going to see pretty much the best defensive

outfield in the National League.”

Pagan said he idolized Beltran, a fellow native of Puerto Rico,

when he was coming up as a young player. The two met for the first

time shortly before Pagan was drafted by the Mets in 1999. Beltran

was playing for the Royals.

”He was a big future star from Puerto Rico, and I used to watch

him a lot,” Pagan said. ”He’s an unbelievable defensive player,

an unbelievable offensive player, and when I saw him come up with

the Kansas City Royals, I saw a superstar coming up. It was the

future for my country, so I had to try to follow the example.”