Thursday, October 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

How Tim Beckham is proving he belongs

ARLINGTON, Texas — There still are going to be times when Tim Beckham will cost the Rays a game, booting a routine grounder at short or airmailing a throw, drifting from his primary responsibility on a play, expanding his zone to strike out in a key situation.

And he is still slated for reduced playing time — reserve infield and occasional outfield duty — upon the return of injured starting shortstop Matt Duffy, which the Rays maintain remains, despite ongoing issues with his left foot, a matter of when and not if.

But, still ....

Beckham has shown he can play in the big leagues.

And play very well.

Beckham may never escape the contrails of being chosen over Buster Posey at the top of the 2008 draft and or become the projected and expected impact player who got a $6.15-million bonus.

But he has shown that he can impact a game, and a team.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Beck, we all would agree that he's pretty confident.

"When you go out there and get the reps he's getting right now, he looks like he wants the ball hit to him, and we know he wants to be up in those big spots."

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Beckham has shown that repeatedly during the Rays good-but-not-great first two months, playing, on most nights, solid defense and swinging a big stick, ranking, going into Wednesday's late game at Texas ranking, with eight homers and 26 RBIs, among the most productive shortstops in the majors.

Beckham, 27, said that a primary reason he is playing so well is because for the first time in the majors he is getting to play a lot.

"The confidence has always been there, it's just a matter of getting the repetitions on a consistent basis," he said. "Especially in the American League East, it's not easy being a platoon guy. You face some studs. All you can do is go out and give it your all when you are platooning, but it's hard to make the day to day adjustments that you can make once you're playing every day. ...

"As far as getting hot and as far as being able to help out the club more, we're all competitors and we all want to compete, so to be able to go out and have a chance to compete every day, it's fun."

Consider his contributions in Monday's come-from-behind win as he made a key defensive play by cutting down a runner at the plate and delivered a three-run go-ahead homer that provided the margin of victory.

On the big play in the fourth, the Rays had the infield in trying to keep their deficit at 5-3 with Rangers on third and second with one out when he dove to his right to spear Elvis Andrus' 99-mph grounder and threw home to nail catcher Robinson Chirinos.

"Got to make plays," Beckham said. "Just trying to make plays for my team, trying to win the game."

Cash was most impressed with how Beckham did it, not rushing his throw. "He knew he had time," he said. "Very, very good game awareness by Tim Beckham."

In the seventh, the Rays had just tied the game when the Rangers played matchups, having right-hander Tony Barnette intentionally walk lefty Kevin Kiermaier to face Beckham.

"That fired me up," Beckham said. "Anytime anybody gets intentionally walked for the next batter it should fire them up. I wanted to see a pitch I could drive and he gave it to me."

"It was great to see him come through," Cash said. "Especially after (Sunday) when he came up in a big spot and probably expanded the zone, looking to do a little bit too much."

Beckham has shown a focus and work ethic since spring training that has impressed his teammates, who already consider him one of the most competitive and intense players on their squad.

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"He's been playing some good ball," outfielder Colby Rasmus said. "You know he's an athlete, a good player. First pick overall, he got some big money to play the game. I think he's just one of those guys that has to feel comfortable in his own skin and get boosted up. We try to keep him jacked up and try to keep him excited about wanting to do something. The talent is there."

Beckham doesn't like to talk much about his success, steering questions back to helping the team and far away from any sense of proving anything to skeptics or critics. (And he still has to work on making a name for himself as espn.com had a Tuesday headline about Beckman leading the Rays.)

"Just a matter of time," he said. "And I want to keep it rolling."

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] and 727.893.8801. Follow >@TBTimes_Rays.>

     
       
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