PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. | Carlos Beltran is out again because of knee trouble, a potentially ominous sign for a Mets ballclub that had trouble scoring runs last year.
This time, New York learned Monday its All-Star outfielder has tendinitis in his left knee and will miss four to five days, the discouraging news coming before a Mets split-squad lost 4-3 in 10 innings to the Washington Nationals.
Beltran was limited to just 64 games last season after right knee surgery in January 2010. He also missed 81 games in '09 and had surgery on both knees in 2007.
He has been compensating for his right knee, leading to the tendinitis.
"I started feeling it when I first started running here, the first couple days of spring training," said Beltran, who also sat last September because of left knee tendinitis. "I felt like I was compensating, and it got worse, worse, worse, to the point where now I have to make sure it doesn't get worse than that."
Beltran will be allowed to do cardio training in a pool and on a bike and can hit but will eliminate running. He will take anti-inflammatory medication.
The Mets have been taking a conservative approach to getting Beltran ready for the season. They held him out of games until Sunday, when he served as the designated hitter. He was supposed to play Monday, but did not because of soreness, and again against the Nationals.
Even though opening day is April 1, the Mets aren't too concerned about getting the 33-year-old slugger prepared for his new position in right field.
"I don't think right now we are anticipating at all that he will start the season on the DL," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We're still within a reasonable time frame to get him ready."
With Beltran out, the Mets have looked at several options to man the expansive right field at Citi Field.
Willie Harris, one of those outfielders, had a long double to left-center in the first inning and walked against the Nationals.
If Beltran's absence "does create more at-bats for me, then it does," Harris said, "but you want your teammates healthy. He's our outfielder."
Newcomer Scott Hairston also has impressed the Mets staff with a strong bat.
In a matchup of starters who've had elbow-reconstruction surgery, Washington's Jordan Zimmermann outpitched New York's Chris Capuano.
Zimmermann, who had Tommy John surgery 18 months ago, allowed one hit over three innings and struck out four. It's his second strong start of the spring; he also pitched three scoreless innings on Thursday.
"I felt good. My off-speed pitches were a lot better today than my last outing, and I kept the ball down all day," Zimmermann said. "I just had a long third inning there and a lot of pitches to (Daniel) Murphy that held me back from going a fourth."
Capuano gave up five hits, including solo homers to Mike Morse and Jerry Hairston Jr., in four innings.
NOTES: Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman was held out of the lineup as a precaution because of a mild abdominal strain. ... Pitching with the Mets split-squad in Kissimmee, Oliver Perez allowed three runs, four hits and two walks in three innings. Owed $12 million this season, Perez could have been making his last start. He also could make the team as a lefty specialist. ... Nationals OF Rick Ankiel grew in nearby Fort Pierce. He went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and left five runners on base.