(BaseballStL) -- One of the subplots of the Cardinals failure to close out the Giants last year in the NLCS was Carlos Beltran missing a chance to play in his first World Series.
He's been in the major leagues for 14 years and still looking for that first trip to the fall classic. He came close with Houston in 2004, with the Mets in 2006, and with the Cardinals last season. At age 35, he may not have many chances left.
Beltran told me in a radio interview that even though the Cardinals didn't reach the World Series last season he still felt like a winner, just having participated in the postseason. He said he thinks this year's team, with young pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, and the addition of veteran reliever Randy Choate, should be better than last year's club.
Beltran is expecting better things from himself, too. "During the offseason I trained hard," he said. "Last year I was limited because of my knees. This winter I did a lot of running and work in the pool. I'm in better shape now than I was last year. Now I feel great. I can't wait to start working again for this team."
Beltran put up big numbers for the Cardinals in 2012. He hit 32 homers, drove in 97 runs and played in 151 games. Only Matt Holliday played in more games, and Beltran was hobbling around in the outfield favoring a tender knee for part of the season. He was also nursing a forearm injury.
"I felt like I was almost dead out there," he said. "Some days I had no chance to be in the line-up. I feel good and healthy now, and looking forward to this year. I feel great. I've had a lot of time to recuperate and I'm feeling great now."
When Beltran is healthy there aren't many players in baseball any better than him. He's a classic 5 tool player. He's also among the nicest guys you'll ever meet in baseball. That's one of the reasons his teammates want so badly to help him get to a World Series.