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Royals return among possibilities for Beltran

Royals return among possibilities for Beltran

Royals return among possibilities for Beltran

KANSAS CITY -- Carlos Beltran began his illustrious career with the Royals. What if, after a nine-year absence, he returned to Kansas City?

"I think it would be a great story if it happens for me to go back," Beltran said Wednesday from his native Puerto Rico.

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So, yes, he has considered the possibility, although his free agency has attracted the interest of "probably seven to 10 teams" that also include the Cardinals, Red Sox and the Yankees. On Monday, he turned down the Cardinals' qualifying offer of one year at $14.1 million.

"Right now, there are just a lot of teams that have interest in my services, but we haven't talked about the number of years or the money; everything is preliminary right now," Beltran said in his first interview on the subject.

Although Beltran was not specific, there is no doubt the switch-hitting slugger is looking for a multiyear contract.

"Right now, the way I feel, I can play 10 more years," Beltran said. "That might sound crazy, but physically I feel so good. I just want to be with a team that I can help accomplish what they're looking for, and that would be, hopefully, going to the postseason."

Ten more years? Well, he chuckled at that, but it is just how good he feels at 36. His knees, notably his right knee most recently repaired in 2010, allowed him to play 145 regular-season and 17 postseason games this year.

"I don't think you can play 145 games if you have a really messed-up knee," he said. "It's impossible."

Of those games, 137 were in right field, and that is where Beltran wants to stay, even if he goes to the American League with its designated hitter.

"Right now, I'm thinking about playing in the outfield; DH is something I'm not considering," he said. "Right now, the way I feel, I want to play in the outfield -- that's what I really enjoy; that's where I really have fun. Maybe later on, I might consider DHing here and there, but right now, that's not something I'm considering."

The current Royals' depth chart has David Lough and Justin Maxwell positioned as a possible platoon arrangement in right field. Although Beltran prospered there in two years with the Cardinals, he hears footsteps of younger outfielders at Busch Stadium.

"They know my interest in going back to St. Louis because I let them know during this past year," Beltran said, "but, at the same time, based on what I've heard it's just that my playing time would be limited because they want to give an opportunity to some other guys."

Naturally, the Red Sox made an impression on Beltran as they beat his Cardinals in this year's World Series, and the Yankees are, well, the Yankees. But Beltran, drafted by Kansas City in 1995 and with the Royals from 1998 into 2004, would obviously consider a return home.

"Based on how they played this year, of course that's a possibility -- they competed; they had a team that almost won the Wild Card," Beltran said, adding: "They can compete, and my decision will be based on teams that are competing. That's a team that I would consider, for sure. I don't want to go back to a team that's not competing."

In 2004, as Beltran approached free agency and a big contract, he was traded in midseason to the Astros and made his first big postseason splash that year. He hit eight home runs in those playoffs, and now, in a combined 51 postseason games for the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, he has 16 homers, a .333 average and a .445 on-base percentage.

This year marked his first World Series.

"It was a great experience," he said. "When I think about baseball, it's about getting to that point, the World Series. I really had a blast."

Beltran's influence has spread beyond the playing field. He has evolved into a quiet but forceful clubhouse presence.

"In the clubhouse I will always be helping guys out and trying to get the most out of guys, let them know that they can help the team win a championship," he said. "That's something that really I love to do, and I will also continue to get involved in the community."

Beltran's outreach has included the establishment in Puerto Rico of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, a high school that provides education along with baseball. This Saturday, Beltran and his wife, Jessica, are hosting a fashion show in Puerto Rico expected to raise $100,000 for scholarships to the school, drawing baseball celebs Yadier Molina, Robinson Cano and Eddie Murray among others.

Beltran's 16-year career includes the sort of credentials that make him a future candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Now that I'm at this point in my career, there's been a lot of talk about me in the Hall of Fame and all of that," Beltran said. "But right now, I just want to be with a team where I can play as long as I can play and, hopefully, my numbers could get to where I could be considered for that."

Most of Beltran's first seven years in the big leagues were spent with the Royals, and, if he should return, there is the intriguing possibility of another "KC" cap to join George Brett's on a Hall of Fame plaque.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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