Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Count on Carlos

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Count on Carlos

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - Beginning in the middle of May, Carlos Beltran's 2014 at-bats were more than just a contest between him and the pitcher.

It was a fight to manage the pain associated with nearly every swing.

"It bothered me pretty bad," said the Yankees veteran switch- hitter, a plague that consumed his daily thoughts last season. "Every time I'd swing and miss, it'd be a big-time pain in my elbow."

The only cure was surgery to remove a bone spur and multiple loose fragments from his right elbow - a procedure Beltran put off until the end of last season.

"It was either play through it or [don't] play," Beltran said. "It took me almost five months to get back to doing baseball activities."

A restored and ready Beltran returned to the Yankees' lineup on Friday night, striking out twice and walking in three plate appearances during his first 2015 Grapefruit League game.

"Honestly, I'm not concerned [about the elbow] at all," Beltran said after striking out looking and swinging in two at-bats as a right-handed batter and walking from the left side in a 3-1 Pirates win at Steinbrenner Field. "Now it's time to continue to get better, take good at-bats."

Entering the second year of a three-year, $45 million deal, Beltran expects to be the regular right fielder - not an outfielder/ designated hitter - as he approaches age 38 in April.

"The way I feel, physically, outfield is my position," Beltran said, though he'll defer to manager Joe Girardi about resting now and then.

Thinking out his 2015 lineup, Girardi foresees a switch-hitter in the third spot - most likely Beltran, with switch-hitter Mark Teixeira batting after cleanup hitter Brian McCann.

What's certain is "we really missed him," Girardi said of Beltran's interrupted 2014 season. "We missed his production last year. It's important to get him back."

Girardi has eased Beltran into action this camp, mindful of the recent surgery and the mileage on a player who might be the most important figure in his lineup. …

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