Adrian Beltre was out of breath when he answered the telephone. He'd been working out – good news for fans who remember the Seattle Mariners third baseman ending the '08 season with not one but two surgeries.
"The shoulder is still aching, not from surgery but from inflammation," Beltre said. "The thumb is much better than I'd expected."
Beltre, a Gold Glove third baseman, need operations on his left shoulder and thumb when the pain finally overwhelmed him in September. Now, he's getting ready to play again – and thinking about a new-look clubhouse.
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"I'm hitting and I'm sore, but I've been taking ground balls and throwing a little," he said.
And the '09 Mariners?
"There's probably been more change than I expected," Beltre said. We lost a lot of games, and I understand, but I wasn't sure which way the team was going to go. We're young, and it's probably not a team that will win a lot of games."
New GM Jack Zduriencik would likely ask Beltre for the benefit of the doubt. Yes, the Mariners lost free agent Raul Ibanez and traded J.J. Putz and Sean Green, but in acquiring outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, first baseman Russell Branyon and pitcher Aaron Heilman, he got veterans in return.
"The youngest players on this team are probably two of our horses – Felix Hernandez and Brandon Morrow," Zduriencik said.
Beltre is doing his part to be ready for spring training next month, and then the World Baseball Classic, where he'll represent the Dominican Republic. Asking for a trade, he said, is not going to happen.
"Seattle has treated me really well, better than expected, and I've given it all on the field," Beltre said. "I want to be part of a better team. As player, you want the best pieces. Last year was frustrating for everyone, we didn't do it. I understand why they went young, but it's not what I was hoping to see.
"Me? I'm healthy again, and I'll be ready for spring training."
As for Zduriencik, he'll try to improve the Mariners between now and spring training.
"We don't hold all the cards, but we're in the game," Zduriencik said. "There are a lot of bodies out there, and we've had enough discussions that if something should fall through, they'll come back to talk to us.
"We've got an offer out right now for a piece of the puzzle, and I'd hope to hear in the next few days."