Just try to get Adrian Beltre out
Texas Rangers' third baseman leads by example: "I'm here to play every day"
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre sat by his locker last Tuesday at Fenway Park, readying himself for a second game off with a strained left hamstring.
Clearly, it was excruciating for him as he answered questions about when he might be back in the lineup. He also made it known it was not his decision to be sitting down again as manager Ron Washington proceeded cautiously with his All-Star third baseman's injury.
"I don't fill out the lineup," Beltre said.
Beltre was back in there the next day, hitting a home run in a 3-2 victory against the Red Sox. And he hit another Thursday against Toronto. And one more Sunday as he continues to help the Rangers through a stretch of 20 straight days with a game as several key players are out with injuries.
It's just who Beltre is.
"I'm here to play every day," he said after Monday's win over Cleveland. "If I'm good enough to help the team and good enough to be in the field, I'm going to try and do that.
"That's the way I am. That's the way I feel. I want to be out there every day. If it's not bad enough to be on the DL, that's what I think. I want to be on the field trying to help my team win. I think that a lot players in the big leagues play through injuries. I can go 0-for-4, 2-for-4, whatever -- I just want to help my team win."
Beltre, who broke into the big leagues at 19 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has turned himself into the most respected player in the Rangers' clubhouse.
He's not "the leader" of the club. Just look around the clubhouse. The Rangers have veterans such as Joe Nathan, Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski. They have mainstays in Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, who just signed a long-term contract and is energetic and talkative and someone other players gravitate to.
There are plenty of leaders.
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But if there was a vote for a captain in the Rangers' clubhouse, Beltre would win it.
"He's our main guy," Washington said the other day when asked about the team's mental toughness and why it's been so strong now for three seasons plus.
Beltre's career arc has had ups and downs. After slugging a career-high 48 home runs during the 2004 season -- his last with the Dodgers -- he signed a mega-contract with the Seattle Mariners. His stature there faded some as he averaged only 20 home runs and batted just .266 during his five seasons in spacious Safeco Field.
The thing you appreciate the most about his immense talent -- his defense -- was lost as his offensive numbers sagged.
With the Rangers, Beltre has displayed every facet of his game as he wrestled away team MVP status from Josh Hamilton, the immensely talented but inconsistent slugger who left for the Los Angeles Angels last offseason. Hamilton, for what it's worth, went through a stretch this season where he took three games off for a mental break while dealing with back spasms.
"He loves the game," Hamilton said about Beltre in April. "He's happy about being at the ballpark every day."
Beltre doesn't take breaks, and he's clearly admired for it.
Kinsler was asked about the Rangers' leadership hierarchy in the clubhouse and how it has worked the past few seasons. And instead of falling in line with the common-held belief that Michael Young -- his close friend now with the Philadelphia Phillies -- was at the top of the pecking order, Kinsler rattled off a few names, starting with Beltre.
"You can go on and on in this locker room about guys who are respected and have played this game at a high level for a long time and have great attitudes and are great in the clubhouse," Kinsler said, pointing in the direction of Beltre's locker.
On Monday, Beltre scored from first base on a double by Nelson Cruz, clearly showing the effects of the hamstring injury as it made for a closer-than-desired play at the plate. Beltre made sure he avoided the tag by sliding almost on top of home plate, rear-end first.
"That's what we're supposed to do," Beltre said. "We're supposed to be out there every day. If it's not bad enough to be on the DL, it's good enough to be on the field."
That mindset has been contagious within the Rangers' clubhouse. Cruz, who has a history of hamstring injuries, is playing through a slight strain. Andrus, who has made no secret about enjoying an occasional day off, talked his way into the lineup a few weeks ago, citing Beltre's influence.
"I think you learn, when you play next to Beltre, to go out there and play," Andrus said. "If you can play, go out there and do it."