Beltran says Mets asked for delay too late

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carlos Beltran says the New York Mets made their request to delay knee surgery only after the operation was underway.

A day after his right knee was repaired, the All-Star center fielder contradicted the claims of team officials who said they asked him to delay surgery while the club’s medical staff evaluated his condition.

“I have done nothing but follow the directions of my doctors. Any accusations that I ignored or defied the team’s wishes are simply false,” Beltran said in a statement released Thursday by his agent, Scott Boras.

“No one from the team raised any issue until Wednesday, after I was already in surgery,” Beltran said. “I do not know what else I could have done.”

Boras claims Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek and trainer Ray Ramirez approved the surgery on Tuesday. Boras said chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon asked for the delay on Wednesday morning, when Dr. Richard Steadman already was removing cartilage fragments and inflammation, and shaving bone spurs.

“The Mets had notice of the surgery on Wednesday because their physician was informed, Dr. Altchek, by Dr. Steadman,” Boras said. “The Mets had notice when their trainer was informed by Dr. Steadman’s office, and he also approved the surgery. Carlos Beltran informed (general manager) Omar Minaya of it through a conversation on late Tuesday afternoon.”

Many have questioned what kind of operation the Mets and their medical staff are running. So much for New York heading to spring training without controversy following a dismal initial season at Citi Field.

Assistant general manager John Ricco said Beltran had permission to be examined Tuesday by Steadman, a knee specialist in Colorado who also looked at Beltran last summer. Steadman recommended surgery.

“We told the agent for the player that we wanted to have the ability to discuss the diagnosis and possibly have a third opinion because, you know, of the nature of this injury,” Ricco said during a telephone conference call. “We wanted to have the opportunity to digest the information, the diagnosis, and unfortunately we were never afforded the opportunity to do that.”

Ricco said the Mets’ request to Boras to delay surgery was made Tuesday evening. Beltran had a different view.

“Dr. Altchek agreed with Dr. Steadman’s diagnosis that I needed surgery, and said he would relay his approval to Mets management,” Beltran said.

The team doesn’t expect Beltran to resume baseball activities for 12 weeks — although Boras said it could be as few as eight. Ricco said the team will be “losing his services, at least for the early part of the season.”

Boras said Beltran didn’t need permission from the Mets because it wasn’t elective surgery and said Ramirez provided the necessary insurance paperwork.

“We thought we had cooperation from their side,” Ricco said. “And to find out afterward that, you know, the surgery occurred, that’s where we’re most upset.”

Thus far, the Mets have stopped short of taking action against Beltran for going ahead with the operation. He is entering the sixth season of a $119 million, seven-year contract.

“We sent a letter to the agent reserving our rights,” Ricco said. “And that’s where it stands right now.”

The Mets contacted lawyers in the labor relations division of the commissioner’s office but have few options. They could withhold Beltran’s pay while he is on the disabled list, which would risk allowing him to become a free agent if the team loses a dispute, or to attempt to void the guarantee language in his contract.

“We’re investigating it,” players’ association assistant general counsel Jeff Fannell said. “Just based on the facts as we understand them to be, the Mets have no basis to assert a claim against Carlos Beltran that he violated his contract.”

Ricco spoke on the conference call because Minaya and Wilpon were at the major league owners’ meetings in Arizona.

“When you have a player of this magnitude, you have an injury that could keep him out for a substantial period of time, you know, our view of it was that we want to make sure we have all the information that we can have at the time before we go forward,” Ricco said. “Obviously, both the Mets’ and Carlos Beltran’s interest in this is Carlos Beltran’s health and having him be healthy and productive for the Mets.”

A five-time All-Star, Beltran missed 2½ months last season with a painful bone bruise on his right knee. The switch-hitter finished with a team-leading .325 batting average and .415 on-base percentage. He had 10 homers and 48 RBIs.

Beltran, who turns 33 in April, had an MRI exam near the end of last season, another one in November and a third on Dec. 10. The third screening showed worsening of an underlying condition in his right knee called osteoarthritis.