Entering with a .190 average in eight exhibition games, Beltran hit his first home run for the St. Louis Cardinals, a leadoff drive off Julio Teheran in the sixth inning during Monday’s 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Beltran, who signed a free-agent contract after splitting last year between the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, also had a single. His home run went deep over the right-field fence.
“I think that was a pretty good indication of his strength,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He wristed that, and it was a rocket. He’s getting close, and that’s pretty good timing for us.”
St. Louis gave Beltran a $26 million, two-year contract after the departure of Albert Pujols. The Cardinals are confident the switch-hitter can provide run production if his troublesome knees don’t sidetrack him.
“I’m just happy that I feel good physically,” Beltran said. “I haven’t been concentrating on results. I knew that would come. My focus is on staying healthy. I’ve been working hard and my knee feels good.”
A bout with the flu and a sore shoulder did keep Beltran out of a few games, cutting the at-bats he needs to get his timing down.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn pitched four perfect innings, then allowed one run, two hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
“I thought he did a great job,” Matheny said. “His pitch count was exactly where we wanted it, and he’ll be stronger the next time out.”
Lynn pitched three scoreless innings in his first start Wednesday against the Houston Astros, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out three.
“I was able to get loose quicker this time,” he said. “I didn’t get tired in the fifth inning. It was more that I rushed things out of the stretch.”
Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer in the fourth against Randall Delgado.
Braves catcher Brian McCann hit his first exhibition homer, a seventh-inning drive off Mitchell Boggs. Yadier Molina had two doubles for the Cardinals.
Delgado and Teheran, both rookie right-handers, are competing for the fifth spot in the Braves rotation. Delgado struck out five and walked three in five innings, while Teheran fanned four and gave up two walks in four innings.
“I’m getting better every start,” said Delgado, who regretted only one pitch.
“I left the changeup up,” he said of Carpenter’s homer. “It tried to get too perfect.”
Teheran has allowed nine homers in 13 spring training innings, including six in one outing.
“His fastball command is not where he wants it to be,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.