PHOENIX -- Shortly after wrapping up a series in San Francisco over the weekend -- one in which he started in right field all three games -- Carlos Beltran huddled with Bruce Bochy on their flight to Arizona. Bochy, the National League manager, asked Beltran if he preferred to be an outfielder or designated hitter in Tuesday's game; Beltran said he did not care.
So it was that Bochy penciled Beltran's name into the starting lineup for Tuesday's 82nd All-Star Game, using him at DH. Batting second, Beltran will give the National League a switch-hitting weapon ahead of its heavy hitters.
"Fine with me," Beltran said.
The assignment only underscored how much -- and in what unexpected ways -- Beltran has contributed to the Mets this year. Missing nearly all of Spring Training in an attempt to strengthen his balky knees, Beltran began the regular season on a program of frequent rest -- play for two days, rest for one, rinse and repeat. But as the season wore on and the health of Beltran's knees became apparent, Mets manager Terry Collins began using him in right field every day.
When the Mets played Interleague games in American League parks, Beltran played the field. When the Mets played day games following night games, Beltran played the field. Counting pinch-hitting appearances, he has played in 89 of the team's first 91 games, more than any other player on the team.
And he has produced, batting .285 with a team-leading 13 homers and 58 RBIs.
"It is special," Beltran said. "I see this as a gift from God after everything I went through last year, through the rehab and trying to get back to the field. Thank God I was able to put a good first half together and being rewarded by being here at the All-Star Game. It's a great feeling."
Needing a designated hitter, Bochy tapped Beltran not only because he wanted a switch-hitting presence at the top of his order, but also because he wanted to give D-backs All-Star Justin Upton significant innings in right field. Which was fine with Beltran, who will receive two at-bats as a DH instead of just one as a defensive sub.
NL STARTING NINE
"It's an honor," Beltran said of the All-Star experience. "I'm just thrilled, happy, and I'm going to enjoy it. This is No. 6 for me, but at the same time, this one really means a lot after what I went through last year with my injury and the year before. I'm just going to enjoy being around so many good ballplayers in the league."
Those were also the reasons that Jose Reyes, the Mets' other All-Star representative, gave for attending the game despite being unable to play with a left hamstring strain. Reyes, who will continue his rehab in Arizona before checking into a training facility on Long Island later this week, wanted to express gratitude to the fans who voted him the National League's starting shortstop.
"It's important to me," Reyes said. "I don't like the beach too much."
So he will watch the proceedings Tuesday evening, rooting especially for Beltran, his current -- but perhaps not future -- teammate. Though Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has reiterated throughout recent weeks that Reyes is unlikely to be traded at this month's non-waiver deadline, he has made no such guarantees for Beltran or closer Francisco Rodriguez.
As a result, rumors have swirled.
"I guess experience gives you a little better understanding of the business side of baseball," said Beltran, who saw it firsthand in 2004 with the Royals. "You cannot take it personally."
This time, however, Beltran boasts a full no-trade clause in his contract, the primary reason he chose the Mets over the Astros as a free agent seven years ago. He has the right to veto any potential trade, and as long as the Mets remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, he very well may exercise it.
"I would love to be in a place where I have a chance to win," he said. "But right now we're winning."
If the Mets start losing, that could change; Beltran has expressed openness to a trade in the past. But he likes his current team and he likes his current status, as an All-Star cog in New York's lineup.
"I'm not saying that I would love to be traded or I'm going to be traded," Beltran said. "Right now, we're playing good baseball. I like where I am. I'm having fun, and we just hope to continue to improve."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. Gregor Chisholm contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.