Postseason star says he can play with right rib contusion, monitored in-game
BOSTON -- Carlos Beltran never emerged from the Cardinals' clubhouse for pregame batting practice on Thursday, but the swings he took in the indoor cage were sufficient enough a test for the right fielder to deem himself good to go in Game 2.
Beltran's availability for the second game of the World Series was in question after he was forced to leave after two innings in Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the Red Sox. The 36-year-old outfielder sustained a right rib contusion after running hard into the right-field wall to rob David Ortiz of a second-inning grand slam.
The X-rays and CT scan taken at a nearby hospital on Wednesday came back negative, but Beltran had to also clear baseball tests before the Cardinals were comfortable starting him on Thursday.
"We still had to see him swing the bat and see how he felt. You can't replicate that in a hotel room," general manager John Mozeliak said, shortly after the Cardinals announced that Beltran would start in right and bat second in Game 2. "It shows you how bad he wants to play. For a guy who has waited so long in his career to get to the World Series, for in the second inning to be taken out of a game is obviously disappointing. I know he's worked very hard over the last 20 hours to get back to this point. Hopefully it works out for him."
Manager Mike Matheny said that Beltran's established honesty when it comes to health issues made it an easy decision to send him right back into the field.
"With a guy like him telling us that he can go, without us seeing anything different, you have to go," Matheny said. "After we see what we see, if it doesn't look like he can move, if it doesn't look like he can swing and he's wincing after every single swing like we saw in the last series [with Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez], to me, that's a different [situation]. But if he tells me he can go, and this is a guy who has been as productive as anybody we've got, he goes."
The Cardinals anticipate that the biggest challenge for Beltran will be at the plate, where the rotation during his swing could exacerbate the discomfort. This is not an injury that Beltran can worsen by playing; the issue is how much pain Beltran can tolerate and whether he will be compromised playing through it.
The one critical distinction between this injury and the one that Ramirez sustained in the National League Championship Series is that Ramirez was diagnosed with a fractured rib after being hit by a pitch. Beltran is dealing with a bruise.
Matheny and his staff will watch Beltran closely to identify any in-game concerns and will rely on Beltran to continue to be forthcoming about his condition.
"I can't make that prediction without watching him in a game first," Matheny said. "We watch him and, of course, if it doesn't look right ... but that is going to be a slippery slope. Everybody can take at-bats that don't look exactly right, I've seen him do it all year long, and next thing you know, you're watching him circle the bags."
Beltran entered Thursday with a .335 career postseason batting average. He ranks in the top eight all-time in playoff home runs (16) and RBIs (37).