Thursday, October 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

But as the ramifications of Monday's trade spread through their clubhouse and onto the field in Tuesday's 4-2, 10-inning win over the Pirates — including Hechavarria introducing himself with a dazzling play — there was one significant thing unsaid:

How would Tim Beckham, who lost his job at short and got bumped to second base for now, handle it?

Beckham refused to talk about it, relaying word through the Rays PR department then directly to the Tampa Bay Times.

If you are reading into it, that's probably not a good sign.

Especially since the Rays still need him to be a key contributor if they are going to make a run.

Manager Kevin Cash acknowledged it was a difficult conversation to have with Beckham at the team hotel on Monday.

"I think you have to be honest with him, and we were," Cash said. "Beck is about winning. Obviously he is frustrated because he feels like he earned the right to stay at shortstop. I understand that. I appreciate his thoughts.

"Saying that, if we feel there is an opportunity to make our complete club better, we need to do that. He's going to go over there and play a lot of second base, he's going to continue to play shortstop and keeping hitting the way he's done."

In other words, like your boss and mine, Cash wants it all: Beckham to handle the reassignment professionally, not hiss and moan too much about it, fill in at his old job when the new guy needs a rest and continue to produce at the high level he had been offensively, hitting .278 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs, to help the team.

"Look," Cash said, "we would not be in this position right now if it wasn't for Tim Beckham's performance."

Beckham has played enough second base that it shouldn't be a difficult adjustment technically, which he showed turning a key double play. So the issue will be in his head.

If he has some perspective, he'd realize he should appreciate the opportunity, first just to still be with the team, and then taking over as the starter this season only because of Matt Duffy's repeated injury setbacks.

And if he can be objective, he'd look into a mirror and see that his own play was often erratic then look to his right and notice immediately that Hechavarria is a remarkably better fielder, evidenced as he made a spectacular diving backhand play on the first ball hit to him. ("One of the best plays I've ever seen," Cash said.)

Beckham wasn't the only one impacted by the move. At least he's still in the majors. Rookie Daniel Robertson, who had been filling in well for Brad Miller at second and flashing leather almost daily, was sent back to Triple A, given the old it's-better-for-you-to-play-every-day reasoning.

And adding Hechavarria — who definitely makes them a better defensive team — is not the only change the Rays are making to a team that going well enough to be in the midst of the American League playoff field.

Over the course of a week, they will have:

• Activated Wilson Ramos and made him their primary catcher, dumping Derek Norris;

• Reinserted Blake Snell into the rotation to start tonight, moved Erasmo Ramirez to the bullpen — which he wasn't happy about and also declined to discuss with reporters — and dropped reliever Austin Pruitt;

• Sent down struggling rookie lefty Jose Alvarado and turned to Adam Kolarek, a 28-year-old who will make his first appearance in the majors tonight.

• Added former All-Star reliever Brad Boxberger — assuming he came out of Tuesday's rehab outing okay — to the bullpen and dropped another reliever.

Cash said it's all being done to make the team better, and "if we care about winning as much as we say we do, the chemistry won't change at all."

But is that too much messing around given how well they've been doing, despite a slew of injuries, with the group they've had?

"I don't think it does because we've had so much movement already, we've had guys coming in and out," veteran team leader Evan Longoria said.

"I think more importantly is how does it affect Beck? Obviously I have all the confidence in the world in that guy offensively and I don't think it changes anything, but it has the potential to.

"Hopefully he takes well to it and understands it and continues to do what he's done and we become a better team because of it."

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