Beltran thrilled to be with Cardinals
ST. LOUIS - Outfielder Carlos Beltran received a lengthy standing ovation during his first public appearance as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Monday at the club's Winter Warm-Up charity event.
Beltran was in St. Louis for the first time since signing a two-year, $26 million deal with the club in late December, signing autographs for fans and taking to the main stage for his first formal introduction to Cardinal Nation.
"I'm just looking forward to being on a team that will give me a chance to go to the playoffs and win the World Series," Beltran said. "And after what they accomplished last year, it was a good fit for me.
"This team is always in the playoffs. They have been able to win this division many times. I just want to be in a situation where I can experience that again and hopefully win a World Series."
Beltran figured that if he can't beat the Cardinals, he might as well join them. Both of the outfielder's National League Championship Series' runs were ended by the Cardinals, in 2004 while with Houston and in 2006 while with the New York Mets.
Beltran bounced back from a pair of injury-filled seasons to have a solid year in 2011, hitting .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI in 142 games with the Mets and Giants.
He projects to play right field while Allen Craig recovers from knee surgery, but could play some in center as an alternate option to Jon Jay.
"I feel good," Beltran said. "Last year I played in the outfield and actually the games that I missed weren't because of my knee. It was because I had an injury with my wrist. My knee felt great. I felt very comfortable playing right field even though it was a decision I had to make in spring training.
"I'm just happy. I'm looking forward to spring training and meeting my new teammates and looking forward to playing."
The three-time Gold Glove Award center fielder didn't play an inning in center field in 2011, deciding instead in spring training to move to right field in hopes of eliminating extra stress and pressure on his surgically repaired right knee.
And the move paid off, with Beltran experiencing his first pain-free season in his knee since 2008. With Jay slated to get most of the playing time in center, Beltran appears set to again get most the time in right field.
"Right field is easy for me, honestly," Beltran said. "Compared to center field, it was less action for sure. You have to cover less ground. It was comfortable. I thought it was going to be a little bit more difficult but I said if I knew it was going to be that easy, I would have made the decision four years ago.
"I feel very comfortable playing center. Moving to right was a very easy transition for me, but if they need me in center field, I'll prepare myself to be there."
Beltran, who announced he will wear No. 3 for the Cardinals, doesn't have a preference on spots in the batting order. His most likely spot appears to be No. 2 in the lineup, but he could also hit third, fourth or fifth at times.
Regardless of where he hits, Beltran is just hoping to help the Cardinals continue to do what they've done for several years - win.
"This ball club is a real good ball club," Beltran said. "They were able to win last year without Wainwright and this year Wainwright is going to be back and healthy. I know Pujols is a hole that maybe no one can fill but with myself, Berkman and Holliday, there are three guys that can produce in the middle of the order. I'm just looking forward to going out there and doing whatever I can do."
Beltran listed the Indians, Rays and Giants as teams he was talking to and also said a different team offered him a three-year contract for less money. But in the end, a chance to reach the postseason swayed him to St. Louis.