NEW YORK -- When Carlos Beltran went to bed Monday night, he expected to feel pain the next morning. That happens when you crash your left elbow, rib cage and left knee into a wall like the Mets' center fielder did in the series-opening loss to the Cubs.

Pain was predicted, and it was to be played through, which was why manager Jerry Manuel had already written Beltran's name on Tuesday's lineup card before the center fielder could even talk to him about his status. The only surprise, Beltran said, was where the soreness persisted most.

While he wore a brace on his left knee Tuesday night and felt most comfortable batting right-handed, Beltran's rib cage still burned when he tried to breathe. That tender area will be exposed when he swings from that side of the plate.

But that can be of no concern, not at this point in the season, not when the Mets are clawing for a place in the playoffs. Beltran has seen Carlos Delgado in the training room, along with Jose Reyes, and he is just one more player that has to play with some sort of pain.

If Beltran had to put a gauge on his health, he said it would be "80 to 90 percent," a number that gives him a 100 percent chance of suiting up.

"A couple of pills and I'll be out there," Beltran said before batting cleanup Tuesday.

And don't think Beltran is playing to prove a point to anyone. Chirping from the stands has often accused the Mets' center fielder of cruising, a lack of hustle and little penchant for the stings of baseball. On the contrary, as others question his toughness, Beltran is grateful his threshold is high.

Beltran's knees have bothered him at other points this season, but he has started all but three games this season.

"You have to learn to play with pain," Beltran said. "All my career, I have seen that some people can deal with pain and some can't. Thank God that I can."