Two spring trainings ago, I was talking with Adrian Beltre about a few different things when he mentioned casually that he didn't wear a protective cup when playing in the field.
Naturally, I was flabbergasted about the situation and even wrote a fun story about it.
But there is nothing fun about what I have to say, Beltre has been placed on the disabled list with "a severely contused right testicle" after getting hit on a hard ground ball by Alexei Ramirez in the ninth inning. Infielder Josh Wilson has been recalled from Triple A Tacoma.
"We will know a little bit later if it will require some surgery," Manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He's had some bleeding in there. He could be out till who knows when."
As I type this, it makes my stomach ache. Probably not as bad as the stomach ache Beltre experienced.
Still, he injured the teste and just kept playing the next five innings.
"He's awfully tough, I couldn't even imagine," Wakamatsu said. "When he dove back into first base and when he tackled Podsednik at third base (pictured above) he felt it again."
Apparently there may be a tear in there and some bleeding.
"I thought he might have tweaked something on that play, but most guys would have been on the ground for an hour," Wakamatsu said.
The best case scenario is 10 days, but it could be longer. If he requires surgery, it could be a month or more. Beltre is meeting with specialist later today.
If the tear is significant he would have to have surgery within 72 hours.
"If it's a major surgery, it would be at least a month," Wakamatsu said. "There's some coagulation in there already, so it's healing already, it's just a matter if it needs to go in there and fix it surgically."
While it isn't funny, Beltre has been teased by his teammates and even Wak chuckled a few times.
But the question that has to be asked is whether he would have been hurt as bad wearing a protective cup? The answer is most likely not.
"The rule is wear a cup," Wakamatsu said.
But Beltre isn't alone. A few other players, particularly Latin American players don't wear them either. Jose Lopez didn't wear one early in his career.
"I think sometimes you think your hand are so good it will never happen to me," Wakamatsu said. "No matter how good you are, that one chance isn't worth taking."
my story from spring training
Do not try this at home, Beltre fans
A Gold Glove winner at third base for Seattle, Adrian Beltre reveals one of his secrets: He plays without a protective cup. He hasn't yet paid a significant price.
The News Tribune
The conversation with Adrian Beltre was supposed to be simple and to the point.
Inquire about winning the Gold Glove; ask about how many ground balls he takes daily at spring training, because it seems like he takes a thousand; perhaps discuss the art of fielding hard shots at third and maybe get his thoughts on the upcoming season.
Standard fare, to be sure.
But then something happened in the midst of the question-and-answer session with the Seattle Mariners third baseman and a handful of reporters.
The subject came up about getting hit by the ball. Beltre talked about being hit in the upper thigh by a screamer from Jeffrey Hammonds.
Someone facetiously commented, "So you never started playing without a (protective) cup?"
"Oh, I don't use a cup," Beltre said matter-of-factly.
Excuse me? Wait a second. What did he just say? He doesn't wear a cup?
"I don't wear a cup," he said. "I never have."
With those words, men around the country cringed in transferred pain.
That Beltre, who fields grounders hit so hard that he can't always see them, doesn't play with a key piece of protective equipment seems insane - and not just to writers.
"No way," infielder Mike Morse said when asked if he would do the same. "No way."
"I could never stay down on a ball without one," he said. "I'd be scared."
Not Beltre. He doesn't allow fear to enter his mind.
"I don't keep it in my head," he said. "You can't worry about it. It's your job."
Perhaps, but that doesn't mean you do your job without the proper safety gear.
"That might be stupidity," he said.
"Stupidity" might be a bit strong. Unsafe foolishness, maybe. At least many coaches, starting on the youth level, would think so.
"I started wearing a cup the day I started playing baseball," Morse said.
Not Beltre. It never occurred to him that he should, even playing on rock-filled Dominican Republic sandlots.
"I played on a lot of crappy fields in the Dominican Republic," Beltre said.
It didn't become an issue until signing with Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994.
"I tried it then because they kept fining me for not using one," he said. "But I couldn't stand it. It didn't feel comfortable. I couldn't run. I couldn't move. I hate it. I was afraid to dive with it on."
He has been cup-free ever since.
It's tough to argue with the results. Beltre is considered one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball. He won a Gold Glove for his efforts last year.
"Being named the best fielding third baseman is pretty big," he said. "I know I've had chances to win it before. But to see it and have them call you and tell you you actually won it is big."
It's not like there is a shortage of competition for the honor.
"There are such great defensive third basemen in the American League, (Eric) Chavez, (Alex) Rodriguez, (Joe) Crede, (Mike) Lowell, any of those guys could have won it," he said. "To choose me, I'm really grateful."
It's an honor won through sweat and hours of repetition. While infielders often take one round of ground balls and then retire to the outfield to chat, Beltre takes round after round, upward of 200 per day.
"I'd rather be doing that than standing around in the outfield," he said. "It's going to make me better."
It's tough to imagine Beltre being much better defensively. Blessed with quick hands, solid balance and a cannon for an arm, he seems born to play third.
But he knows he isn't perfect. He made 18 errors last season, many when he was trying to make impossible plays few would even attempt.
"I'd rather make an error instead of just holding onto the ball when I know I have a chance to get the guy out," he said. "Sometimes I make stupid errors when I should just hold the ball, but I just can't do it. If I get there and I have a chance, I'm going to throw it."
That mentality leads him to make a passel of highlight-reel plays weekly.
"I think it helps me that I'm not afraid to make an error," he said. "I'm not surprised when I make those plays. I'm supposed to make those plays."
And still this not-wearing-a- cup idea?
It doesn't faze Beltre. He's more worried about getting hit elsewhere.
"If it's hit at you, you just react to it and keep it in front," he said. "Luckily I haven't had any teeth knocked out. I've been hit in the chin a couple of times. But I want to have my face intact when I retire and have all my teeth."