As uncertain as Carlos Beltran's status was as close as three hours before the first pitch of Game 2 of the World Series, no one was more doubtful than Beltran himself.
The effects of the rib contusion he suffered after running into the short fence in right field to rob David Ortiz of a homer in Game 1 were still lingering the next day.
“When I left the ballpark yesterday I had very little hope that I was going to be in the lineup with the way I felt,” he said. “When I woke up, I woke up feeling a little better."
But he was willing to go to any lengths to take the field.
“I came to the ballpark, talked to the trainer,” he said. “I was able to get treatment and talk to the doctors, and find a way to try anything I could try just to go out there and feel no pain. And I did that before BP and went to the cage. I felt like I was swinging the bat okay ‑ not good, but good enough to be able to go out there and be with the guys.”
The solution was ultimately an injection of the anti-inflammatory drugToradol, which Beltran said would "kind of block the pain for five hours or six hours.”
That was enough time for him to go 2 for 4 with the RBI single that gave the Cardinals a cushion in their 4-2 win and even their series with the Sox at a game apiece.
Having waited 16 years to reach the Fall Classic, it was clear how much it meant for Beltran to figure out a way get on the field.
"I would say that as a player, I'm always going to come to the ballpark to prepare myself to play the game," Beltran said. "At the end of the day I believe that being in the regular season, that the manager is going to be more cautious and probably give me the day. But if he let me choose, I always would love to choose to play because that's what I love to do."
The use of Toradol, however, has been scrutinized around the league. Last year, a New York Times feature explained that discussion about the drug – and its unknown side effects – comes up every year in baseball circles. Its use was also at the center of the recently settled lawsuit by several former players against the NFL that claimed teams administered the drug before and during games.
No data are available on the use of the drug by athletes, so it is unclear how frequently Toradol injections are provided and for what ailments, and whether players are told of the potential side effects — all of which has caused tension and a growing awareness among sports medicine experts. Concerns over its widespread use in baseball compelled at least two team doctors to stop using it, according to a medical staff member of a major league team who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to implicate his team.
“It puts those of us who do sports medicine in a tough position,” said Dr. Jessica F. Butts, a physician focused on family and sports medicine at Indiana University Health. “The decision to play is a tough one. There are some things that are black and white, but there are a lot of sports injuries that are in a gray zone, especially in professional sports and college sports, where so much is on the line.”
Before the game Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was making contingency plans in the event Beltran was unable to play.
“We were all kind of sitting around waiting to see how things would turn out today,” Matheny said. “We didn't know how he was going to feel. But obviously he feels pretty good. He was moving well, too. Just watching him run the bases, watching his jumps in the outfield. He didn't have a lot of action out there, but you could see he was feeling pretty good overall.
“So hopefully a good rest day tomorrow after a tough flight tonight, and hopefully get him feeling even better for the next game back home. But Carlos is such a pro, you know. He knows how to handle when he doesn't feel completely a hundred percent, which he probably hasn't felt since February. But he's the kind of guy that knows how to make the best of what he has.”
Afterward, Beltran's body was still achy.
"I know for sure tomorrow I'm going to feel sore," he said. "The good thing is tomorrow I have the day off, and I've got the opportunity to get treatment, and hopefully Saturday I feel better than what I feel today."