A minute was 60 seconds, a hour was 60 minutes and the lineup card looked complete Tuesday afternoon at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
“The Texas Rangers’ on-field world spins on its axis the proper way when he’s around,” manager Jeff Banister said. “All those players know it.”
Beltre slid back into the lineup, batting third against the Chicago White Sox, in his first game since Team USA eliminated the Dominican Republic. Beltre played in four games and collected only one hit in 16 at-bats, but could laugh about it when asked about the health of his left calf.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t get on base a lot.”
The calf is fine, Beltre said, and the swing isn’t far behind. With 10 games remaining before Opening Day, he sees no reason why he won’t be ready for the 2017 season.
That’s what makes everything really run smoothly in the Rangers’ world.
“With him gone, it’s like driving a ship without the captain,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “As soon as the captain is back, it’s cruise control. He’s back to guide everybody the right way.”
Beltre’s teammates and coaches were aware that he would be back Tuesday. One of them, usual suspect and proud Venezuelan Andrus, placed a wreath with a sash that read “Rest in Peace DR” next to Beltre’s locker.
Andrus denied any involvement in the caper, but Beltre felt the love nonetheless.
“It’s a nice welcome,” he said. “They missed me.”
His absence on the field was filled by multiple players, including Joey Gallo, who were given a chance for extra at-bats and time in the field to impress. His absence in the clubhouse was filled by Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Gomez, who took on additional leadership duties.
Now that Beltre is back, and with the three remaining missing WBC players due back this week, the team is about to come together.
“It’s time to start getting the feeling and the lineup back,” Andrus said. “We know what we need to do. Playing together is better for our eyes to see the team and get out there and start getting that chemistry. It’s always a good feeling playing with everybody.”
Beltre has slumped all spring, which opened with him unavailable because of a Grade 1 strain of the left calf. He played in four Cactus League games before the WBC, going 0 for 6. Including his WBC performance, he’s batting .045 this spring.
“I didn’t perform well,” Beltre said. “I didn’t perform the way I wanted to perform. I was chasing a lot of pitches. Swing-wise, mechanically I felt OK. Being in spring training and seeing videos and seeing my swing is going to help a bit.”
Of course, no one is worried about the four-time All-Star who is 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. He should punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame in May, but he has bigger goals and doesn’t want the countdown to 3,000 to become a distraction for the team.
He even pleaded with the media to tone down the rhetoric as the milestone approaches.
“The ultimate goal here for the team is to go to the playoffs and win the World Series,” Beltre said. “I don’t want questions every day about personal stuff. I understand it’s your guys’ job, but please do not overdo it. OK?
“God willing, hopefully it can happen. I don’t want people to be overlooking things because of this stuff.”
That gets to the root of what Andrus had to say about what it means to have Beltre back from the WBC. He will put the Rangers in the correct course and lead them into the regular season.
And everything will be in sync with the Rangers.
“I hope I will be healthy enough to help this ballclub get to the ultimate goal,” Beltre said. We all know what it is.”