NEW YORK -- A lesson learned last season and a strained right hamstring kept Carlos Beltran from playing Sunday against the Brewers. The Mets' center fielder, who played hurt and not at his accustomed level through much of his first summer with the Mets, injured his right hamstring on Saturday as he began to run to first base in the third inning.

The muscle tightened, and Beltran was removed in the eighth inning. He felt soreness when he awoke Sunday.

"I don't feel 100 percent," he said just before game time Sunday. "I hurt my quad last year and tried to play with it. It really didn't help."

The Mets medical staff told Beltran the injury "isn't major" -- his words. "They said I have to be smart and not make something major out of it," he explained. One member of the Mets' staff said the club hoped that, by sitting out Sunday, Beltran would be available for the three-game series against the Braves, which begins on Monday night.

Beltran didn't address the matter in those terms. He indicated that he wouldn't have played or even pinch-hit Sunday even if the game were critical, but he said, "I'll be fine. I'll back soon."

Beltran started 149 games last season despite the quad injury -- also to his right leg -- suffered in April and the injuries sustained in that horrible collision with Mike Cameron in August. Some teammates have said they thought he felt obliged to play hurt because of his salary and that his sense of selflessness might have worked against him in the long run.

To play or not to play: How much to play when injured often is an issue of gray. Decades ago, Willie Mays told the late John Milner, "They don't pay you for what you do when you're hurt." And some Mets people thought Milner applied that thinking too often.

Milner often missed time when his injuries didn't appear too serious, frustrating his managers. When Yogi Berra managed the Mets, he would peer down the corridor from his office toward Milner's locker. If Milner was wearing his orange, white and turquoise striped bathrobe, Berra knew not to write him into the lineup. Sometimes he didn't even ask.

But if Milner were limping, sick and tired, but not wearing the bathrobe, he'd play.

The play's the thing: The Glavine family went to Broadway to see the Lion King on Saturday night. During intermission, father Tom checked his cellular phone and noted that John Smoltz had called. Without listening, he made this three-tier assumption: "He either pitched well, pitched poorly or he wanted to know if we could play golf."

Turned out Smoltz had shut out the Padres Saturday.

The Braves are in town this week, but Smoltz won't be starting; Glavine starts on Wednesday afternoon.

Help wanted: The Mets have an opening for an advance scout. Bruce Benedict, who had worked for the club since his days coaching under Bobby Valentine, resigned. For now, Howie Freiling, a former Minor League manager who was doing other scouting, is doing the advance work. He filed the report on the Braves.

No Laurels for Hardy: It happened in the sixth inning Sunday -- an Oliver-Hardy confrontation. And for those of us who recall that name, sans the hyphen, it prompted a smile. Mets pitcher Darren Oliver faced Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy with Corey Hart on first base. Hart stole second and moved to third base on an errant throw by Carlos Delgado. And that constituted -- as Oliver Hardy used to say in the old Laurel and Hardy movies -- "Another nice kettle of fish you've gotten me into." Oliver escaped, striking out Hardy. But Geoff Jenkins followed with a home run.

This date in Mets history -- April 17: Still a rookie, Jerry Koosman pitched his second straight shutout, the second of his eventual seven shutouts, in 1968. Koosman allowed the Giants seven hits and two walks and struck out 10 in a 3-0 victory at Shea, four days after throwing a four-hitter against the Dodgers in L.A. ... Two years later on this date, Buddy Harrelson hit his second big-league home run, drove in two runs and scored three in support of his buddy. Tom Seaver pitched an eight-hit shutout in a 6-0 victory against the Phillies at Shea.

On this date in 1975, neither starting pitcher -- Koosman or Lynn McGlothen -- completed the second inning. The Mets beat the Cardinals, 14-7, in St. Louis. Jack Heidemann, who had 16 RBIs in 157 at-bats with the Mets in one-plus seasons, drove in four runs in five at-bats that day. ... A year later, the Mets defeated the Pirates, 17-1, in Pittsburgh, taking advantage of 21 hits, two walks and five errors. ... In 1977 on this date, Cubs third baseman Steve Ontiveros hit a soft single to right field -- it fell a few feet in front of Ed Kranepool -- with one out in the fifth inning, the Cubs' lone hit against Seaver in a 6-0 victory at Shea. The one-hitter was the fifth and final of Seaver's Mets career.

On this date in 2003, Jae Seo gained his first big-league victory, pitching seven scoreless innings against the Pirates in a 7-2 victory in Pittsburgh. Mo Vaughn drove in four runs.

Coming up: The Braves, without Chipper Jones and with Smoltz not scheduled to pitch, come to Shea Stadium for the first time this season, and not as a first-place team. This will be the first of nine games the Mets and Braves will play in a 22-day sequence. Pedro Martinez vs. Jorge Sosa, he of the 11.37 ERA, appears to be a mismatch.