The early-season magnifying glass landed Saturday on Adrian Beltre, the Texas Rangers third baseman who is the only player in the majors to bat better than .315 in each of the past three seasons.
He was 166 points shy of that plateau entering Saturday. The Rangers’ best offensive bet entering the season was in the midst of an 0-for-14 skid and batting .149 ahead of a matchup against Felix Hernandez, arguably the best pitcher in the American League.
Granted, Hernandez has struggled against the Rangers in his career more than any other club, going a mere 12-21 with a 4.01 ERA. Beltre was a career .294 hitter against him.
But, depending on who is offering the commentary, Beltre isn’t what he used to be way back in 2013 and 2014.
“Maybe I forgot to hit,” he said. “I forgot to hit, and I’m old.”
Boy, Beltre sure sounded worried.
Yet, there are those who are worried and who believe that the 36-year-old is finally showing signs of decline. Father Time, of course, is one of the few things in life that is undefeated.
Beltre, though, just sat back and yawned in response to all those noisy concerns. He is baseball old, which is allowing him to take comfort in knowing that he’s going to hit and hit often this season.
“I’ve been through this several times,” said Beltre, who is playing in his 18th season. “I’m confident. I’m confident in what I can do. I feel good. I’m healthy.
“It’s a six-month season, not a two-week season.”
April hasn’t been the worst month of Beltre’s career, though at .268 it’s just two points better than May. The past two years, though, have seen Beltre bat .255 and .222 in the season’s first month.
A native of the Dominican Republic, where the weather is tropical every day, Beltre admittedly doesn’t like playing in the cold.
Boston slugger David Ortiz, another Dominican, third-personed himself last year, saying, “When the weather gets hot, Papi gets hot.”
The same holds true for Beltre, who followed up his .255 April last year with months of .315, .392, .301, .327 and .326. In 2013, he closed with months of .376, .278, .369, .381 and .262 after the .222 April.
As baseball types like to say this time of year, it’s early. Beltre didn’t have an answer for when it’s no longer early. He just knows that he’s going to start hitting at some point over the next few weeks.
“I could get four hits today and three hits tomorrow, and then where am I?” Beltre said. “All the worrying is just a waste of time.”
Manager Jeff Banister said the same thing, and no one else in the Rangers’ dugout is concerned about Beltre either.
“He’s an ultimate pro,” Banister said. “He knows where he’s at.”
Banister pointed to several hard-hit balls that have resulted in outs, like the line drive Beltre smoked right to third baseman Kyle Seager on Friday night. There have been some weak grounders and pop-ups, too.
That rest of the Rangers’ regulars, outside of Prince Fielder and Robinson Chirinos, have been as inconsistent as Beltre. The lineup against Hernandez had six players batting below .200.
Beltre was one of them. But remember, it’s early.
“It’s still 11 games in,” Banister said. “Production-wise, he’s not where he wants to be or where he’s going to be. He’s not worried.”
No, Beltre isn’t worried. He knows better than to make too much of an April swoon.
“I’m normally a slow starter,” Beltre said. “I’m not worried.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760