Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 2/24/12
JUPITER, Fla. While watching the Cardinals improbable World Series run last postseason, outfielder Carlos Beltran quickly realized they were the team to help validate his career. In 14 years in the big leagues, Beltran has won a Rookie of the Year Award, two Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove Awards and has been named to six All-Star Games. But one glaring stat remains: he's yet to play in the World Series. Beltran was one game away from making the Fall Classic on two different occasions but twice lost to the Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 2004 with the Houston Astros and 2006 with the New York Mets. "At this point in my career, I just want to win a Championship," Beltran said. "You play all season to accomplish that. I'm really looking forward to that. I won the Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, I've been to the All-Star Game, but nothing compares to winning a World Series." The ending to the 2006 NLCS will go down as one of the best finishes in Cardinals playoff history. Then a rookie closer, Adam Wainwright got Beltran looking on a curveball with the bases loaded and the tying runs on base in the bottom of the ninth inning to end the game and send the Cardinals to the World Series. Beltran hasn't been to the playoffs since, something he desperately hopes to change with his new team in St. Louis. "I'm just looking forward to being on a team where I feel we have a chance to be in the playoffs and hopefully win a Championship," Beltran said. "You look at what the accomplished last year, with one of the best pitchers in the game in Wainwright being out, I was thinking, Wow.' "It's a rare opportunity to be with a team that's probably going to have a chance to be in the playoffs. Being able to play this game for a long time, I was just looking for that opportunity." Beltran, who will turn 35 in April, hit .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI in 142 games for the Mets and Giants in 2011. He picked the Cardinals over the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. He's a career .283 hitter and has 302 home runs and 1,146 RBI since breaking into the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 1998. "He's a middle of the order bat that we need," said second baseman Skip Schumaker. "He's a professional switch-hitter who has done it for a lot of years. He's killed teams that I've been on so I'm glad that he's on our side." The switch-hitter will likely start the season as the Cardinals right-fielder, a position he enjoyed playing for the first time in his career last year with the Mets and Giants. But he provides an intriguing right-handed hitting alternative in center field once Allen Craig returns from a knee injury. Beltran hit .286 against left-handed pitching with 11 doubles and nine home runs in just 147 at-bats in 2011. "I'm here to help the team however I can," Beltran said. "If they need me in center field or right field, I've got to do the best I can to get this team into a position to win. "I think they have their center fielder here. I was here to be the right fielder but at the same time I heard the manager make a few comments about probably playing me in center against left-handers. Whatever he decides to do, I believe he's going to communicate it to me and we'll be on the same page." A troublesome right knee limited Beltran to 81 games in 2009 and just 64 games in 2010. But the move to right field kept him healthy enough to play in 142 games last season. The Cardinals plan to monitor Beltran's health closely this spring to ensure his knees feel 100 percent heading into the regular season opener on April 4. During a dinner with manager Mike Matheny in St. Louis after passing his physical in early January, Beltran expressed similar desire to play wherever the team needed him most. "It's really going to be focusing on how he feels and trusting him," Matheny said. "Obviously he understands the position. He's had more repetitions in center field than he's had anywhere else. Last year he made a great transition to right and with Jon jay out there who plays a great center field, it gives Carlos that flexibility. "We sat and talked and he said all the right things and I don't think it was lip service. He said I'm going to do whatever this team needs me to do." To win his first World Series, Beltran will do whatever it takes.
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