Adrian Beltre talks about his future with Rangers
Proof that Adrian Beltre is able-bodied and planning to play this season could be found Monday afternoon at Surprise Stadium, where Beltre was in the Texas Rangers' lineup.
The goal was for him to remain upright for a whole three innings of his abbreviated spring debut. He exceeded that by taking a second at-bat in the fourth, collecting a double to finish the day 2 for 2 before heading to the clubhouse.
But to listen to him and others describe the process of getting to this point, it sounds like he was injured when he arrived to camp or is in the recovery phase after coming out a deep coma.
No, no, no. That's not the case, the involved parties said. Beltre's delayed spring debut is all part of a new experiment geared toward keeping the Rangers' best player off the disabled list in 2018.
"Because I'm old," said Beltre, who turns 39 in April.
The future Hall of Fame third baseman is on the verge of his 21st season and is still trying to cheat Father Time, who at some point will pin Beltre to the mat.
The hope is that last season wasn't the beginning of the end and that Beltre can play survive another big-league campaign with the assistance of a lighter spring workload.
"My mind-set is to play 140-plus at third base, but we’ll see how that goes," Beltre said. "I’m not putting any limitations. My main focus is to be in the field as much as I can. Whatever happens, happens."
What happened last year was less than ideal.
Beltre arrived to the Surprise Recreation Campus with a Grade 1 calf strain and aggravated the injury upon his return from the World Baseball Classic.
He opened the season on disabled list and the day before he expected activation, he suffered a new strain that kept him out until late May.
Throw in a Grade 2 hamstring strain Aug. 31, and Beltre would play only 94 games.
"I think we're being a little more cognizant of him being ready to where things have gone in the past," manager Jeff Banister said. "I think he's done a great job of really understanding his body and where's he at and how he needs to get ready.
"We don't need for him to be ready to compete in early spring-training games. We need Adrian to be ready Opening Day and for the long haul. I don't think he's competing for a job."
Beltre has been hard to find, though he was excused much of the weekend to watch his son play in a baseball tournament in the Phoenix area. He has done a chunk of his prep work in the gym and on an underwater treadmill. He has hit in the cage more than he has on one of the back fields.
One reason is the Rangers don't want him standing around during team drills in which he might go a minute or two between reps. He also is no stranger to an early-spring strain, and, obviously, everyone wants to avoid that.
"It's not because I can't do anything," he said.
Beltre also said that he doesn't need much time to get ready. He is in his 21st spring training and uses Cactus League games to get his mind ready and to work on things he knows he will need during the season.
For instance, he said that in some games he might work on his two-strike approach and take two strikes before even intending to swing. In all, he said that he doesn't need anymore than 10 days to get ready for a season.
"For the last 10 or 15 years, ballplayers come into spring training in shape and just need some repetitions," Beltre said. "Once you’re established in the big leagues, your mind-set is to be ready for the season, not to show if you can play in spring training. I don’t care if I go 0 for 4 in a game if the approach I want to work on is the right one."
There's no set schedule for when Beltre might play next, though he hinted it would be Wednesday or Thursday. It all depends on how he feels and what the Rangers' medical staff sees, Banister said.
Beltre and the Rangers are doing all they can to avoid a repeat of 2018 and to keep cheating Father Time.
"Obviously, what happened last year with injuries, they want me to take my time and make sure I take it slow and my legs are ready to go," Beltre said. "Obviously, I don’t need 40-50 at-bats to get ready. So, why rush it?"