Beckham working in OF to boost versatility

Infielder embracing opportunity at Spring Training, hopes to land spot on 25-man roster

Beckham working in OF to boost versatility

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- George Hendrick used to tease Tim Beckham about getting an outfield glove.

Hendrick, who was the Rays' outfield coach, had been an outfielder, and he liked to stir things up. Beckham was the perfect target for his game.

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Kidding aside, Beckham indeed has an outfielder's glove in his locker this spring. The infielder arrived to camp hoping to earn a spot on the 25-man roster in a utility role. So rather than shy away from a new adventure in the outfield, Beckham is embracing it and hoping that the increased versatility will work in his favor.

"I just want to play, man," Beckham said. "I want to play and win games."

Make no mistake about it, Beckham is an athlete. Flash back to last season when Tampa Bay needed a first baseman and Beckham went out and played the position for the first time in his career, even dating back to his amateur days. Playing any position for the first time is difficult, but at the Major League level? And he performed flawlessly.

Now Beckham must do the same with outfield, and he is not intimidated by the task at hand.

"It's just repetition," Beckham said. "The more comfortable I get out there, the more opportunities I'll get. I don't think it's going to be hard at all. It's not going to be tough learning the position. Like I said, just a matter of getting comfortable."

Coach Rocco Baldelli acknowledged that Beckham getting some playing time in the outfield would help him as well as the Rays.

"I think Tim's a good athlete," Baldelli said. "There are some things that come naturally with some guys, but there is a lot of technique that can be learned through experience, too.

"He has the physical ability, certainly, to be a good outfielder. I think with some work, he'll be able to get there. We're going to start going down that road. I think he's enthusiastic about it, and so am I."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.