The waiting is the hardest part, and Adrian Beltre rarely has waited in his career for an injury to heal fully.
Those would seem to pale in comparison to a bum right calf, but old muscles don’t heal like they once did and Beltre had to wait it out.
No Opening Day. No nothing for the Texas Rangers’ first 51 games of the season.
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Finally, though, his Opening Day arrived Monday, when he came off the 10-day disabled list and was a player for the first time in 2017.
And Joey Gallo played, too.
Beltre singled in his first at-bat of the season and Gallo homered and doubled in his first game of the season at first base, but the Tampa Bay Rays charged past the Rangers 10-8.
The Rangers didn’t reinstate Beltre until some 90 minutes before first pitch, giving him a chance to go through his normal pregame routine to ensure that he was good to go. Gallo took fly balls in left field and grounders at first base, with Mike Napoli bothered by a sore back.
Beltre and Gallo then each had a hand in the Rangers taking a 4-1 lead after two innings.
Beltre singled in the first as the first four Rangers reached against Erasmo Ramirez. Shin-Soo Choo walked, went to third on Elvis Andrus’ hit-and-run single, and both scored on Nomar Mazara’s double.
Beltre went 1 for 5 and flied out as the tying run with two outs in the eighth.
“I like those situations,” Beltre said. “It’s not the same when you first come back, but I still wanted the at-bats and I still wanted to come up in those situations. Obviously, I didn’t get the job done today, but that’s part of the game.”
Gallo started the second with a line shot into the right-field seats, his 16th homer of the season.
Tampa Bay had trimmed the Rangers’ lead to 4-3 when Gallo started the fourth with a double off the right-field wall and scored as Robinson Chirinos followed with a single to center.
The Rays countered in the fifth as Evan Longoria, who drove in their first two runs, knocked a two-run homer off Martin Perez with two outs and a 1-2 count against him.
“I’m mad because I can’t miss where I missed,” Perez said. “I have to miss down.”
Perez lasted only five innings, which put the bullpen to work early. After a scoreless sixth by Jeremy Jeffress, the Rays scored five in the troublesome seventh against Jeffress, Alex Claudio and Tony Barnette (1-1).
Barnette allowed two inherited runners to score and a three-run homer to Tim Beckham in the span of three pitches. The Rangers have been outscored 43-21 in the seventh inning this season.
“All I know is I let my team down tonight,” Barnette said. “They put us in a spot to win and I let it snowball from there. That's all there is to it.”
The Rangers’ first home loss in nine games spoiled the feel-good vibes created by the return of Beltre, who played Thursday through Saturday at extended spring training as the final test for his strained right calf.
Beltre spent much of the spring dealing with calf issues. He reported to spring training with a strained left calf but was healthy enough to play three weeks later in the World Baseball Classic.
He strained his right calf entering the final week of camp and opened the season on the DL. He was expected to be activated for the fifth game, but a new strain in the same calf bit him.
Beltre was finally well enough to ramp up baseball activities during the last homestand, and the Rangers sent him to extended spring training Wednesday.
To make room for Beltre, the Rangers optioned Drew Robinson to Triple A Round Rock. Gallo, who had filled in at third base since Opening Day, is likely to play regularly in left field and at third and first base.
Gallo filled in more than adequately for Beltre and entered Monday as the team leader in home runs and slugging percentage. He was tied for the team lead with 32 RBIs.
The Rangers are comfortable enough to put Gallo in left field or at first base after watching him play there in spring training.
“I don’t really have a preferred position,” Gallo said. “I just want to be out there.”
Rangers vs. Rays
7:05 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW