Texas Rangers

Rangers Reaction: Here's why Beltre's 3,054th hit might mean more to him than 3,000th did

Eight games down, 154 to go.

That's a lot of time to learn about the 2018 Rangers. No one knows yet as it's too early to say with any certainty.

They could very well end up well below .500 this season. They might surprise and get to .500. They could clinch a wild-card spot. Honestly. Unlikely, but not impossible.

But the eight games the Rangers have played have revealed some trends, good and bad.

The starting pitchers can't continue to pitch fewer than six innings. Only one starter, Bartolo Colon, has completed six.

The bullpen is already overworked. That said, the relievers' work has been good overall.

When the Rangers play good defense, they win games. In each of their two wins vs. the Oakland A's, outfielders made key throws for outs and no silly stuff happened with the gloves.

Delino DeShields is missed. Drew Robinson has been a fine replacement, but the lineup is a bat short with DeShields out. He's going to be out five more weeks.

So, it might take a few weeks after he returns to get a full picture on what the Rangers are. It's still too early to say with any certainty.

Only 154 games to go.

Here's some Rangers Reaction from a 6-3 victory.

1. Think about all the great position players in MLB history from Latin America. Roberto Clemente is at the top of the list that includes fellow Hall of Famers Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparacio, Rod Carew, Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda.

David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran could be next. Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols will be there some day. So will Adrian Beltre, who as of Thursday has officially topped them all in career hits.

And that matters to him. Possibly more than hit No. 3,000 last season.

His double to start the second inning gave him 3,054 career hits and moved him out of a tie with Carew for the most hits by a Latino-born player. He later added hit No. 3,055 to move into a tie with Rickey Henderson — his former teammate — on Rickey Henderson Field, no less, at No. 24.

"It's surreal," Beltre said. "I've always been a fan of Rod Carew, and to get a chance to pass him on the list is amazing to me. It means a lot. We always grew up watching those players in the big leagues. For me, it's humbling. It's hard to believe that I caught up with those guys."

It's probably a temporary place atop the Latino hits chart, as Pujols is closing in on 3,000 and has three more years left on his contract after this season. He's also eight months younger than Beltre, who turns 39 on Saturday.

Cabrera is just under 400 hits away and at age 34 is under contract with the Detroit Tigers until 2023. His big body, like that of Pujols, is breaking down, but there will always be at-bats at designated hitter for each.

Beltre's Rangers contract expires after this season, and the Rangers want to keep him around. It doesn't seem like Beltre wants to retire just yet as he chases the milestone that matters most to him — a World Series ring.

The one he achieved Thursday matters, too, even if it's a temporary gig.

"Once I retire, maybe, I don't know when, but I might sit around and acknowledge what I've done," Beltre said. "It's hard to believe. I don't know how long I'm going to be there because a lot of those guys are coming behind me, but just to be able to get to that point, for me, is remarkable."

2. Martin Perez's first start of the season was a mixed bag, though most of it was good. He did leave with a lead and he became only the third Rangers starter to pitch in the sixth inning.

He was efficient, throwing only 76 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. He didn't walk a batter, though he hit one early on.

Part of the reason for his efficiency was that he made the A's put the ball in play, and they did that a lot. They had only one strikeout and collected 10 hits before manager Jeff Banister went to the bullpen.

The hit count shows that Perez could have had better stuff and command, but he stayed on the attack, stayed around the plate and trusted his stuff — just as he said he would.

"I've been telling you guys," he said.

What remains to be seen, but will be revealed soon enough, is if this was good Perez, bad Perez or just Perez. All three are a possibility.

He's probably two starts away from being where he needs to be after making only two spring starts. He pitched in a simulated game last week, but that wasn't a very good warm-up.

Perez, though, talks as if he's ready for his best season. He has a drive inside him that brought him back three weeks earlier than expected from a broken right elbow, and it's easy to see that he wants to be better than he has been in the past.

If the Rangers are to have any chance at a meaningful season, Perez must be better.

3. Sometimes, baseball just isn't fair. Case in point: Jose Leclerc.

The right-handed reliever was optioned to Triple A Round Rock on Thursday morning to clear a roster spot for Perez and to keep Colon on the roster.

All Leclerc did in the first six games of the season was appear in three of them without allowing a run and allowing only one hit in nine at-bats. He walked a batter, but he was erased on a double play.

But he worked two innings Wednesday, very impressively, and has a minor-league option remaining. That was an unlucky combination.

Leclerc will be back this season. If his spring and early-season work are any indication, he will be entrusted with more late-game duty. His stuff is among the best in the bullpen, and the control appears to be far better than at any other time in his career.

The Rangers' No. 1 concern entering spring training was to lift his confidence. He has pitched with confidence, essentially throwing strikes and telling hitters they have to swing at his pitches.

An undeserved demotion might shake a pitcher's confidence, but if Leclerc understands baseball, he understands that this is one of those things that happens and that he has no control over.

All he can control now is to continue throwing well at Round Rock. If he does that, he should understand that he'll be back in the Rangers' bullpen sooner than later.

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