ARLINGTON, Texas — For the ninth time in the last 11 games, Gordon Beckham earned the starting nod at third base for Thursday night's road trip finale in Texas.
In those two games Beckham didn’t start at third, he started at shortstop in one and pinch-hit for Conor Gillaspie in the fifth inning May 29 in Houston. Manager Robin Ventura said his string of starts isn’t necessarily due to deficiencies in Gillaspie’s game, instead pointing to the solid offense and defense Beckham has showed this year.
“It’s him playing well,” Ventura said. “He’s been in the middle of a lot of stuff we’ve had. The other day we pinch hit him early in a situation where you know he’s been swinging well and having good at-bats. Normally you’re not going to make a move like that in the fifth inning but the way it was going you wanted to roll the dice and get after it and know you’re getting a really good defender as well.”
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Over his last 10 games entering Thursday, Beckham has an .813 OPS. In 41 games this season, he’s hitting a solid .284/.350/.432 and has played good defense at third base.
Gillaspie, on the other hand, has struggled. He has just a .675 OPS while defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating peg his defense as below average, though he’s dealt with plantar fasciitis since spring training.
With Detroit throwing left-handers Kyle Ryan and David Price in the first two games of this weekend’s series at U.S. Cellular Field, Gillaspie’s absence from the lineup likely will continue through Sunday. With Beckham hitting well, though, he’s started against plenty of righties — including all three Texas ran out against the White Sox this week in Arlington.
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“He’s playing well enough to be in there righty or lefty,” Ventura said. “Defensively you can put him anywhere on the field and he’s going to be the best defender out there.”
Whether Beckham’s starts become permanent over the summer remains to be seen. Gillespie hit .282/.336/.416 last year while Beckham hasn’t finished a year with an OPS over .700 since his rookie year of 2009.
But Ventura said he’s seen the former No. 8 overall pick be in a better place mentally this year after returning to the organization from the Angels over the winter. So far, Beckham’s performance has backed up his manager’s claim.
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“Some guys you go away from where you originally were and there’s a different perspective,” Ventura said. “You might hear the same things but from different voices and a different set of eyes that all of a sudden you become a different person. You’re aware of more stuff and he came back a more relaxed player this year in spring training and saw it.
“For some of it he’s not trying to live up to anything, he’s just playing. And he’s a winning type player, it sometimes just takes a while to get there. Right now he’s that player, he’s not trying to live up to being a high draft pick or anything else. He’s just trying to be a good player for this team and that’s all you really want out of him.”