Texas Rangers

Everyone knows who plays third base for Rangers. The key is knowing how to keep him on the field

Adrian Beltre, right, walks to the dugout with Rangers’ head trainer Kevin Harmon straining his left hamstring during the seventh inning Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Joey Gallo, center, and Elvis Andrus watch them walk to the dugout.
Adrian Beltre, right, walks to the dugout with Rangers’ head trainer Kevin Harmon straining his left hamstring during the seventh inning Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Joey Gallo, center, and Elvis Andrus watch them walk to the dugout. photo@star-telegram.com

The star of all Texas Rangers stars came to spring training injured last season and was out on Opening Day and injured again by the end of the season. That's how Adrian Beltre will likely remember 2017, a season in which he collected his 3,000th career hit.

There's no place he would rather be than on the field, and the last place he wants to be is on the disabled list. Running second on that list is serving as designated hitter.

Not coincidentally, the Rangers would rather have Beltre on the field and not on the DL. It's been that way since 2011, when he signed as a spry 32-year-old, and is especially so now as he's about to turn 39.

There's no question who the Rangers' third baseman is entering spring training. The question facing Beltre and manager Jeff Banister is trying to keep the future Hall of Famer on the field this season.

"It's the ability to get him, and it's been the quest every year for all these guys, but him especially just to make sure we take care of him and keep him on the field as much as we can," Banister said.

"I do know that the place he loves being the most is on the field playing, and any time he's on the field he feels he gives us an opportunity to win baseball games. We're going to do our best to keep him on the field and keep him performing at a great rate. We know that when he's on the field we're a good ballclub."

Just how much DH time Beltre gets will be determined as the season goes along. The schedule this season features more off-days, so that alone will help, but Banister could put Beltre at DH in games before off days to in essence provide two days off his feet.

Day games after night games are also a good bet. Not all of them, granted, but enough of them.

But Beltre's injury woes started before he even reached the Surprise Recreation Campus last spring. He pulled a calf muscle running on the treadmill at his home on Valentine's Day, nursed it through the first two weeks of camp before going to the World Baseball Classic, and was headed toward another Opening Day start before he tweaked the calf upon his return to Arizona.

He opened the season on the 10-day disabled list, but aggravated the injury further the day before he was eligible for reinstatement. Beltre didn't make his season debut until May 29, and Joey Gallo filled in well enough to stay with the team after Beltre returned.

Gallo would be in line to play third base if Beltre is out an extended stretch. Jurickson Profar and Drew Robinson can also handle the position if needed.

He fought through a sprained ankle in June and streaked to his 3,000th hit July 30, but his hamstring gave out Aug. 31. He beat the odds and came back from a Grade 2 strain after two weeks and was the DH until the Rangers were eliminated from the postseason in the final week.

As the season closed, he called his season a failure despite collecting the milestone hit and batting .312 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs. But the number stood out to him was 94 games, the first time since his rookie season that he didn't top 100.

"I don't think I helped at all," he lamented in late September.

Later, he said that he needs to maybe dial things back a tad during the offseason. He is so dedicated to his routine that he would get in his daily workout at any point in the day, including after midnight if he and the family had been out late.

The Rangers, though, didn't order him to do anything differently this offseason. After 20 seasons, no one knows Beltre's body better than the man himself.

"I know our medical group are in regular conversation with him," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He tweaks his program a little bit each year, but we're on the same page with him and we have not asked him to curtain his program any."

But someone has to know when to tell him when to take a DH game or — gasp! — even a day off.

"Those are independent conversations that will be had as spring training goes along and the season goes along," Banister said. "I listen to how Adrian feels. I let my eyes tell me where he's at. I think Adrian's in a pretty good spot on what he needs to do."



Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments