Back at Citi Field for the first time as a visitor after spending almost seven seasons with the New York Mets, Carlos Beltran found more than a tribute video and some nostalgia waiting for him.

He was also returning home — to center field.

For the first time this season, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did what he and the organization had only talked about the past several months: start the veteran Beltran in center, a position where he won three Gold Glove Awards before knee surgery eased him to right field. The timing was right, Matheny said, because it gave him an opportunity to cram his best available bats into the same lineup and possibly hit the Cardinals out of their funk.

"That's the theory," Matheny said. "We're going to roll with it and see how it goes."

If Beltran in center was the end result, Allen Craig was the start.

The Cardinals activated Craig from the 15-day disabled list Friday, his first day of eligibility after recovering from a hamstring strain. To keep first baseman Matt Adams and Craig both in the lineup, Matheny had to move Beltran to center and make room for Craig in right. It was a setup that Matheny mused about during spring training — with Lance Berkman at first base — but had not deployed as the club remained cautious with Beltran's right knee. Beltran received a day off earlier this week to rest the joint, and he missed four consecutive games in May with soreness.