Bel­tre, 38, nears 3,000-hit plateau

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - Texas Rangers

AR­LING­TON, Texas — Adrian Bel­tre just wanted to work hard, be con­sis­tent and earn re­spect in the game. As a young player, he never even thought about his­tor­i­cal num­bers like 3,000 hits.

“Never in my mind did I think that I was go­ing to be in the po­si­tion where I’m at right now,” Bel­tre said. “If I tell you that, that I was, I’m ly­ing. For me, I just wanted to be a good player. … When you play for a long time, you ac­cu­mu­late stuff.”

Now 38 and in his 20th ma­jor league sea­son, the Texas Rangers third base­man goes into a week­end se­ries at home against Bal­ti­more just four hits shy of 3,000 in his ca­reer. Only 30 other play­ers have done that, with Ichiro Suzuki the only cur­rent ac­tive player in that club.

Next will be the five-time Gold Glove win­ner who got his first hit as a 19-year-old rookie with the Los An­ge­les Dodgers on June 24, 1998, four years af­ter they had signed him out of the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. This is Bel­tre’s sev­enth sea­son in Texas, where he fi­nally made it to a World Se­ries, and he is signed through next sea­son.

“Ev­ery­thing you see out there, to main­tain that level of in­ten­sity, you can tell how much he loves be­ing around

his team and the game,” Ori­oles Man­ager Buck Showalter said. “He’s got to be a first-bal­lot Hall of Famer, doesn’t he? I mean, what else do you have to do?”

Bel­tre has some quirky habits — he checks his own swing to um­pires, hates be­ing touched on the head and there are the shuf­fling feet and swivel­ing legs in the bat­ter’s box on in­side pitches or those in the dirt.

Be­hind the im­pos­ing stare he some­times shows is a guy who just re­ally loves play­ing the game. He is a .286 ca­reer hit­ter who has hit for the cy­cle three times, and been a league leader in hits, dou­bles and home runs.

“This guy plays with a re­laxed in­ten­sity that you want your guys to play with. He’s very fo­cused, but he’s very con­fi­dent and he’s com­fort­able in the fact that he’s go­ing to pre­vail in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion,” Los An­ge­les An­gels Man­ager Mike Scios­cia said. “And he has an un­mis­tak­able joy when on the field.”

Still the same as when Scios­cia was still in the Dodgers or­ga­ni­za­tion and first saw Bel­tre as a 15-year-old in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, and then com­ing up in the mi­nor leagues.

“You just mar­vel, I think, at the con­sis­tency of his game over a long pe­riod of time and you know it takes a lot to be that good that long,” said Mi­ami Mar­lins Man­ager Don Mat­tingly, an AL MVP and six-time All-Star dur­ing his 14 sea­sons play­ing for the New York Yan­kees.

Hall of Famer play­ers Ge­orge Brett and Wade Boggs are the only pri­mary third base­men in the 3,000-hit club. Bel­tre just over­took Dave Win­field for 21st all-time with 1,095 ex­tra-base hits. Bel­tre also passed Cal Rip­ken Jr. for 15th with his 604 dou­bles, and he ranks 38th with his 454 home runs.

Since miss­ing the first 51 games this sea­son be­cause of calf is­sues, Bel­tre is hit­ting a team-best .307 with 9 home runs and 34 RBI in 48 games.

Bel­tre was 7 for 10 in three games this week against the Mar­lins be­fore a bizarre scene in the eighth in­ning Wed­nes­day night when he got ejected while wait­ing on deck to bat again.

Sec­ond-base um­pire and crew chief Gerry Davis mo­tioned for Bel­tre to get closer to the on-deck cir­cle. Bel­tre, al­ready with a home run and two dou­bles in what be­came a 22-10 loss, was tossed when he in­stead dragged the large plas­tic mat mark­ing the cir­cle closer to him.

“There was no need for him to call me out there. There was no need to throw me out,” a still-baf­fled Bel­tre said af­ter­ward. “I don’t think I showed him up. I just did what he told me to do. … He took away an at-bat from me. I don’t think that was nec­es­sary.”

The Rangers have six more home games be­fore hit­ting the road again next week. Af­ter Bal­ti­more, there are three games against Seat­tle, one of Bel­tre’s for­mer teams. Felix Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young win­ner and one of Bel­tre’s close friends, is sched­uled to start the se­ries opener Mon­day night.

WHITE SOX Jen­nings to Rays in swap

The Chicago White Sox made their fourth trade in 15 days Thurs­day when they sent left-handed reliever Dan Jen­nings to the Tampa Bay Rays for mi­nor-league first base­man Casey Gil­laspie.

Gil­laspie, 24, was ranked the 10th-best prospect in the Rays or­ga­ni­za­tion by and started the year as Base­ball Amer­ica’s No. 74 over­all prospect. The brother of for­mer Sox third base­man Conor Gil­laspie was a firstround draft pick in 2014.

He was hit­ting .227 with 15 dou­bles, 9 home runs, 44 RBI and 45 runs scored in 95 games this sea­son with Class AAA Durham. He will be placed on the dis­abled list at Class AAA Char­lotte with a bro­ken right big toe suf­fered Tues­day when he fouled a ball off the foot and is ex­pected to miss one or two weeks.

MAR­LINS Mas still eye­ing pur­chase

Mi­ami busi­ness­man Jorge Mas is con­tin­u­ing ef­forts to buy the Mi­ami Mar­lins and met with MLB Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred last week in hopes of ac­com­plish­ing that, ac­cord­ing to a league source.

A day later, Man­fred met with one of the other bid­ders — Wayne Roth­baum and Jeb Bush, sources re­ported.

Mas, who had been study­ing the Mar­lins’ fi­nan­cial records, last week briefly re-eval­u­ated whether he wanted to con­tinue pur­su­ing the team be­cause he was frus­trated that the Mar­lins would not grant him an ex­clu­sive ne­go­ti­at­ing win­dow and be­cause he be­lieves the team is not worth the $1.2 bil­lion that owner Jef­frey Lo­ria is seek­ing.

But Mas, at least for now, is pur­su­ing a pur­chase. Though he hasn’t made a for­mal of­fer, he has been try­ing to put to­gether a group of in­vestors in re­cent days. There was never any ex­pec­ta­tion that Mas would fi­nance his en­tire bid.

Man­fred has said three groups re­main in con­tention for the Mar­lins — groups led by Derek Jeter, Roth­baum and Mas.

AP file photo

third base­man Adrian Bel­tre, 38, is four hits shy of 3,000. His quest con­tin­ues to­day in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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