PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — At the crack of the bat, Carlos Beltran put his head down and took off running from second base. To him it was the natural thing to do. To the New York Mets, boy, was it a tense 180 feet.
Testing his right knee for the first time this spring, Beltran scored from second base with a slide into home plate. More importantly, he bounced right up.
“Once I’m playing games I’m not thinking about being cautious,” Beltran said after getting a hit in a 6-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.
The five-time All-Star outfielder was the Mets’ designated hitter. The switch-hitter batted left-handed in the second inning and lined a single to right field off Michael Bowden. On Daniel Murphy’s two-out hit, he ran for home.
Manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson watched every stride as Beltran got the sign to go from third base coach Chip Hale.
“I couldn’t say what was going through my mind,” Collins said, “but it was a good play.”
The 33-year-old Beltran batted twice more from the right side, popping out to right field both times — once against Boston setup man Hideki Okajima.
“Hittingwise I know if my knee is able to work properly like I am expecting, I am expecting a good season offensively,” Beltran said.
Collins like what he saw and said Beltran would DH Monday against Detroit if he was feeling OK. Beltran likely won’t play in the field for a week to 10 days.
Beset by knee problems that limited him to 81 games in 2009 and 64 last year, Beltran has been on a conservative program to strengthen the muscles around the knee. He restricted his running in the offseason, which is why he isn’t 100 percent yet.
Last week, the three-time Gold Glove winning center fielder, in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million contract, told Collins that he wanted to make the switch to right field because of his knees.
His replacement in center, Angel Pagan doubled and scored a run Sunday.
Red Sox designated hitter Daniel Nava played catch up all day. He arrived at Boston’s spring training facility at 8 a.m. Too bad, the bus left at 7 for the trip. Thinking he was staying back for a workout because of a travel-roster mix up, Nava had to make the long drive alone. He struck out in his first at-bat.
Settled in for his second turn, he hit a ground-rule double off Mets starter Jonathan Niese. Nava finished with two hits.
Bowden started in place of Jon Lester, who was scratched because of the flu and did not make the 2-hour, 20-minute trek from Fort Myers.
“I know some of the fans grumble, but it’s really fun for our staff to spend the whole day with these (young) guys and get to know them,” manager Terry Francona said about the lack of Red Sox stars at the game.
Projected as the No. 2 starter until Johan Santana returns possibly in June, Niese breezed throughout two innings before giving up a homer in the third. He was pulled in the fourth after reaching his limit of 55 pitches. In 3 2-3 innings he gave up two runs and four hits. Niese struck out four without walking a batter.
“The work volume is increasing and the body is feeling good,” Niese said.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect fifth inning for the Mets. He has allowed one hit in two one-inning appearances so far.
NOTES: The Mets’ Lucas Duda hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning after Josh Reddick tied it with a two-run drive in the top half. … Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez hit several homers during batting practice in Fort Myers. Working back after offseason shoulder surgery, it was Gonzalez’s first BP on the field. … The game set a Mets attendance record of 7,413.