Beltran awestruck by Giants’ slugger

Carlos Beltran was humbled by praise he received from Barry Bonds when the two sluggers met up Monday morning.

“I told him I’m trying to be like you and he said I’m already better than him,” said Beltran, the New York Mets’ center fielder. “But I think the things he does in this game at 43 are unbelievable.”

Beltran is in the enviable position of hitting third in the National League lineup, flanked both offensively and in the field by Bonds (batting second and playing left field) and Ken Griffey Jr. (hitting cleanup and playing right). Beltran said it was a “dream” scenario and hoped to use the weekend to hang out with the duo and take away some tips to add to his already stellar game. Beltran, a four-time All-Star, is hitting .264 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs.

“Growing up and in high school, I used to watch and really admire Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr.,” Beltran said. “It’s like a dream come true for me to share an outfield with them and I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can.”

REUNION TIME: AL manager Jim Leyland said he would spend some time during the festivities trying to reconnect with Bonds, who he managed while in Pittsburgh. He also said he would instruct his pitchers to challenge the slugger.

“I will not intentionally walk Barry Bonds in the All-Star Game,” Leyland said.

POLANCO READY: Detroit Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco said he is “pretty sure” he will be able to take his starting spot in tonight’s game. The first-time All-Star is suffering from a strained lat muscle and saw limited action in last weekend’s series against the Boston Red Sox.

Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez was not present at the media session, but American League coach Ron Washington, a former A’s third base coach, said the Red Sox star, who was ill Sunday, would be available to play.

melliser@examiner.com

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