Tim Beckham’s immediate future with the Seattle Mariners became much more clear when the organization optioned J.P. Crawford to Triple-A Tacoma earlier this month.
While many have dubbed Crawford as Seattle’s shortstop of the not-so-distant future, Beckham is the shortstop of now.
The 29-year-old, on a one-year deal with the Mariners after signing as a free agent in January, responded by opening his 2019 season with two strong games in Japan. He went 5 for 7, scored four runs and emphatically flipped his bat after hitting a two-run homer in his third at-bat.
“It’s good anytime you can put together some good games — if it’s spring training, or no matter when it is,” Beckham said. “I just want to vibe off of that good energy, and good feeling that I played with, and keep it going.”
With his third major league club in three seasons — he split 2017 between Tampa Bay and Baltimore, and spent last season with the Orioles — Beckham said he is focused on maintaining his daily routine as the Mariners continue to restructure.
“I’m here to play ball,” Beckham said. “I’m a ball player. I come into work every day and I want to get my work in and be ready for the game at 7:05. Other than that, I can’t control what’s out of my control.
“I don’t know what they’re saying in the front office, or any of that stuff, but what I can do is prepare myself to play good baseball.”
With the Mariners, Beckham is trying to establish himself as an every day player. His career, began with much promise as the overall No. 1 pick in 2008, has been sidetracked with injuries.
In 2013, he reached the majors and played in five games. However, he tore the ACL in his right knee that offseason, and missed the first half of 2014 recovering from surgery.
The following year, he made Tampa Bay’s Opening Day roster, appeared in 82 games and hit .222 (45 for 203) and was hampered by a hamstring strain that June.
He never eclipsed a .260 batting average in his stints with the Rays — he hit .247 in 64 games in 2016 and .259 in 87 games in 2017 — and was traded to Baltimore midway through 2017 for right-handed pitcher Tobias Myers.
Beckham put together one of the best stretches of his career in that second half with Baltimore, batting .306 in 50 games — and hitting safely in 39 of them, including 19 multi-hit games.
Last year, Beckham dealt with another injury. He missed the bulk of May and June with a groin strain, and needed minor-league rehab assignments in Bowie and Norfolk.
He finished the season with a .230 batting average in 96 appearances with the big-league club. The Orioles, undergoing their own rebuilding plan, opted not to offer him a new contract.
“The main thing this year for me is about health,” Beckham said. “I want to be available for 162 games of the year. Last year I missed a couple months for groin surgery. I just want to be on the field and be healthy for 162.”
Whether he spends the entirety of 2019 with the Mariners, or moves involving Crawford or others are made during the season, Mariners manager Scott Servais was satisfied with Beckham’s output at the plate and in the field during the short two-game sample in Japan.
“Tim played really well,” Servais said. “Probably we’re most excited defensively. I think he’s made some nice adjustments playing with (infield coach) Perry Hill. Just a couple minor things have helped.
“Offensively, we know Tim’s got ability. He’s had some good years in the past.”
With the Mariners opting to give the 24-year-old Crawford more time in the minors, Beckham will likely spend most of his time at shortstop. Servais, who has noted several times throughout the spring that the Mariners will put together various combinations on the field, likes Beckham’s versatility.
“J.P. is going to start the season in Tacoma, but Tim being here, Tim can play all over,” Servais said. “He’s played third. He can play second, if he had to. Right now he’s going to play predominantly shortstop, and we’ll see how that plays out.”
Beckham knows the plans the Mariners have for the future include Crawford — who debuted with Philadelphia in 2017, and has played a combined 72 games at the big-league level during the past two seasons — but Beckham said he is focused on the contributions he can make to the club in 2019.
“He’s a good player and has tools,” Beckham said of Crawford. “When he’s ready, I’m sure they have a plan for him.
“His plan is out of my reach and out of my control. What I can control is what I do here, and what I do to prepare myself for the game. I want to play good baseball and help the club win games every night.”
EXTRA REPS FOR SMITH
Servais said Sunday that outfielder Mallex Smith, who has missed much of the spring with a right elbow strain, will see extra time in the Mariners’ exhibition games against the Padres on Monday and Tuesday.
Smith returned to Seattle on Sunday. Servais said Smith has had about 30-35 at-bats this spring, and the Mariners want him to get more repetitions in the field.
He will likely play five or six innings in both games against the Padres, while the other regular starters are projected to play about four innings.
“The big thing for us is to get our guys work in,” Servais said. “We’re still in the mode of adjusting back to the time zone here, and all of that stuff. Getting out there and playing a game will be a good thing.”
Right-hander Mike Leake will start Monday’s exhibition game, while lefty Wade LeBlanc will start Tuesday’s. Felix Hernandez will throw a simulated game before the Mariners work out on Wednesday’s off day.
Seattle has brought several players up for the two exhibition games, including infielders Tim Lopes and Evan White, outfielders Jake Fraley and Kyle Lewis, super utility player Kristopher Negron, catcher Austin Nola and pitchers Robinson Leyer, David McKay and Matt Tenuta.