Beltran told Pagan and new manager Terry Collins on Monday that he wanted to make the switch because of his knees. The three-time Gold Glove winner had decreased mobility when he returned last summer following right knee surgery on Jan. 13, 2010.
"I have to think about my health and how to be in the field for the team," Beltran said. "I believe the best decision is for me to play right field. It's going to be less active, and I am looking forward to saving my knees for the long run. I know if I am healthy and I can play more time in the field, I can help this team offensively, even in the outfield. I know it will be a different transition for me to make but I feel I will be able to go to that."
A five-time All-Star, Beltran is entering the final season of a $119 million, seven-year contract.
Collins said at the start of spring training that Beltran would be his center fielder, but said a switch could be made. Collins said last week that Beltran would not play during the first week of exhibition games and probably would start out as a designated hitter while the team is able to use one through March 10.
Beltran is going through a running program and began rounding the bases last week, but he said Monday the running portion of his game is not up to speed. He also said he sometimes feels weak and tight the day after workouts, but that he will be ready for opening day.
The 33-year-old said he had been thinking about the move since the start of camp and decided it was best after talking with his wife, agent Scott Boras and others.
"I still feel I can play center field, but at the same time, it's not about Carlos," Beltran said. "It's about the team. In order for me to play center field, I need more time. I want to be on the same page with everyone here. I want Terry to have his time and to come to the ballpark ready to play the lineup without thinking where he is going to play Pagan, where he's going to play me. But at the same time, I'm thinking about Pagan, coming to the ballpark and preparing himself and focusing to play baseball.
"I don't want to create any distractions here. I want to play right. I think it's best for the team. I think it's going to be best for me also, best for my knee."
Beltran has played just three games in right field during his 13-year major league career, all with Kansas City in 2000.
"It will be an adjustment," Beltran said. "To me, catching the ball, throwing the ball, that's easy for me. I have no problem with that. It will have to be an adjustment of whether the ball comes off the bat different than center field. Right fielders have to go to the line. Lefties go the other way."
Beltran is turning the center field position over to a player who idolized him while growing up in Puerto Rico and who has worked under his tutelage the past three seasons. Pagan had conceded the center spot to Beltran last week, saying if he was healthy enough to play there, Beltran should be the center fielder.
"It's a relief, knowing your going to be in a certain position," Pagan said. "I feel really fortunate to be passed this torch from the player I always looked up to. I think having him right next to me is going to be a great plus for me. I know I'm going to keep looking up to him and keep trying to pick his brain because I'm sure he's one of the best center fielders out there, and I'm trying to be like him."