Coming off DL, Rangers' veteran goes 1-for-5 in season debut
By Sam Butler
ARLINGTON -- For the first 51 games of the season, Adrian Beltre had been forced to watch his teammates from the dugout. But during Monday night's 10-8 loss to the Rays, he was back.
Beltre had been on the disabled list since Opening Day with a strained right calf, and after making a handful of appearances in Arizona in extended spring action, Beltre was activated and placed in the starting lineup for the first time this year.
"Obviously he adds excitement, energy, presence," said Rangers manager Jeff Banister. "We saw it immediately with just, all of our guys inside of the dugout and on the field."
Beltre's return generated all the fanfare you'd expect out of a future Hall of Famer. When his name was announced before the game, he got a standing ovation, and when he looped his first at-bat of the season into right field for a single that tied him with Frank Robinson for 34th-most on the all-time hit list, he got a rousing cheer from the Texas faithful.
"Not anxiety, but I was excited to get out there," Beltre said. "A little anxious, just wondering how it was going to be the first game. That was it. Once I got my first at-bat, it went away."
He went 1-for-5 in his season debut, and although his return allowed Texas to "stretch the lineup," as Banister said, it wasn't enough to alleviate the issues the Rangers' bullpen served up.
Tony Barnette allowed a two-run double and a three-run home run to put the Rangers in a hole they couldn't get out of. Beltre ended the inning with a vintage Beltre play, however: He dove to his left to snag Derek Norris' rocket line-drive and end the inning.
"Defensively I went down [to Arizona] and I got about three games and I didn't get too many ground balls, but I feel OK," Beltre said. "Obviously once you get up here it's different. Hitting is different, defensively it's different."
In the eighth inning and with the Rangers trailing, 10-8, the cards seem to fall so that Beltre would have a chance at a storybook moment. With two outs, Nomar Mazara stood on second, and Beltre represented the tying run. Beltre flew out to left field.
"I like those situations," Beltre said. "Obviously it's not the same when you first come back. ... Obviously I didn't come through today, but it's just part of the game."
With several members of the Rangers nursing injuries and the team in the midst of dropping six of its last seven games, Beltre's return allows for a more versatile lineup that could be key to turning around Texas' rut.
"I'll just do whatever I can to help this ballclub win more ballgames. Doing my job and trying to keep everybody on the same page," Beltre said. "... Hopefully we can turn it around and win some ballgames."
Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.