Clubhouse notes: Beltre thankful, ready


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One of the first people Rangers pitcher Omar Beltre talked to when he found out he was heading to the big leagues was Alexi Ogando.

"He left me a message on my voicemail wondering why he was the last to know," Beltre said through a translator. "We talk all the time."

It sure seemed like a longshot even a year ago that Beltre and Ogando, who could not obtain visas to enter the U.S. because of their part in a human trafficking ring, would end up together on a big league team. But here they are. Beltre was excited when Ogando got his promotion a few weeks ago, sneaking peeks at the television screens at Triple-A Oklahoma City to see him when he could.

It's been a long and winding road to the majors for Beltre, but one that resembled a highway once he got to the United States in spring training. Just a little more than four months later, he's in the majors and pitching against the AL West rival Angels on Wednesday.

"This is a very special thing that's happened to me," Beltre said. "I've worked very hard and I'm happy this has happened."

Beltre was just a few weeks behind Ogando. But once he got into the starting rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City and put up consistently strong numbers for five starts, the Rangers were ready to give him a shot. Beltre said he felt more comfortable starting because that's what he did in the Dominican Republic.

Beltre said an elbow injury meant he was not 100 percent in spring training, but now that he's healthy his pitches -- splitter, slider, fastball change -- are much better.

"I'm healthy and the location is now there," said Beltre, whose velocity is about 94-95 mph. "I've been working hard on the slider, but the pitches are there."

Beltre said that during first two years he was in the Dominican Republic and couldn't get back to the U.S. he wasn't sure he would ever get a chance to rejoin the organization.

"But as hard as the Rangers worked, I at least felt like there was a possibility it could happen, but I wasn't sure how soon it would happen," he said. "After I saw the organization trying, I knew that there was hope."

He'll get his shot in the rotation on Wednesday.

Other notes:

* To make room for Beltre, the Rangers will make a roster move, and manager Ron Washington said that would be a pitcher. He declined to say who. The candidates include Dustin Nippert, Matt Harrison and Chris Ray. To me, it makes the most sense to send Harrison down to Triple-A and let him join the starting rotation. That way there's some depth there and he's stretched out if needed.

* Beltre's appearance means Colby Lewis gets two extra days off. But more than that, it means he'll make one fewer start before the All-Star break than previously planned (now two starts before the break).

"I'm basically at 100 innings now," Lewis said. "It's better we're doing it now than the second half. I think they don't want to see us tired. We're going to be in the hunt in the second half, and they want everybody fresh."

Lewis pitched every sixth day mostly in Japan last season, the product also of the league having off days every Monday (they play a 145-game schedule or so stretched out for a full major league season). He said he felt good on Saturday, but his breaking pitches weren't working. He said he's healthy and ready, but will take advantage of the additional time off.

* RHP Rich Harden will throw a bullpen on Wednesday. It's his second one (he threw Sunday) since going on the DL with a left gluteal muscle strain.

* Vladimir Guerrero faced a throng of media in the visiting dugout today. We'll blog a little later on that, but he said he enjoyed his time in Anaheim and is glad to be with the Rangers and to come back with a club that's winning games. He added that he had to ask a few times how to get to the visiting dugout.