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Beltre gets deserved day off on 39th birthday

Cool weather a factor in decision; Hamels alters pitch selection in 2nd start
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers got Adrian Beltre a cake with candles for his 39th birthday Saturday, manager Jeff Banister said, but getting the night off was no gift for the veteran, who has a reputation for vehemently trying to talk his way into the lineup even when due for a break.

Former Rangers manager Ron Washington used to joke that he had to hide under his desk to avoid Beltre whenever he posted a lineup without the veteran third baseman in it. Banister said Beltre has mellowed, however, or at least warmed to the idea that it's not a bad thing for him to get a rest every now and then.

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ARLINGTON -- The Rangers got Adrian Beltre a cake with candles for his 39th birthday Saturday, manager Jeff Banister said, but getting the night off was no gift for the veteran, who has a reputation for vehemently trying to talk his way into the lineup even when due for a break.

Former Rangers manager Ron Washington used to joke that he had to hide under his desk to avoid Beltre whenever he posted a lineup without the veteran third baseman in it. Banister said Beltre has mellowed, however, or at least warmed to the idea that it's not a bad thing for him to get a rest every now and then.

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"This is a partnership in everything we do, and in partnerships, you have conversations. There's always two sides," Banister said. "Two guys that help lead a team can make great decisions."

Saturday's game against the Blue Jays was Beltre's first day off after playing in the first nine games of the season. The cool weather -- temperature at first pitch was 42 degrees -- was a factor in Banister's decision. Otherwise, Beltre probably would have sat Sunday in the series finale, Banister said.

Beltre becomes all-time leader in hits by player from Latin America

Banister credited Beltre's insistence on playing every day with helping him be a smarter manager in terms of mandating rest for all his players. Banister also said Beltre's attitude inspires his teammates.

"Every single one of them want to play every day, every inning, of every game -- led by a guy who does it as good as anybody I've ever been around," said Banister. "So for him to have a little pushback on it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest gifts I've been given as a manager."

Beltre has played in 988 games since joining the Rangers in 2011, an average of 140 a season entering 2018. However, he appeared in just 94 last season due to injuries. It was the first time he'd played in fewer than 111 games since his rookie year in 1998.

Beltre is currently the fourth-oldest position player in the Majors, behind the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki (44), the Dodgers' Chase Utley (39 years, 111 days) and the Tigers' Victor Martinez (39, 105 days). Beltre's teammate, pitcher Bartolo Colon, is the oldest of any MLB player; he turns 45 in May.

Tweet from @Rangers: We all know Adri��n doesn't age, but once a year he celebrates his birthday. #HBD pic.twitter.com/dLFv1Xpz0j

Altered pitch selection helped Hamels in his last start

Rangers lefty Cole Hamels, scheduled to start Sunday, has turned in two markedly different performances this season, the first a relatively pedestrian Opening Day loss at home and the second a gritty, 11-strikeout win over the A's in Oakland.

In both starts, Hamels threw 94 pitches and did not get out of the fifth inning. But in the second outing, Hamels essentially scrapped his curveball -- he threw it only five times, after throwing it 22 times in the opener -- and didn't use his slider at all after employing it six times in the first game.

Video: TEX@OAK: Hamels racks up 11 K's over five frames

Instead, Hamels threw more sinkers, changeups and cutters in Oakland. The changeup was particularly effective, with eight swings and misses. He struck out 11 that night in just five innings, getting his first eight outs via strikeouts.

"Cole's a smart pitcher, very veteran pitcher. I think he plans accordingly," Banister said. "I think he also understands himself about what he has that day."

Rangers beat

• Reliever Tony Barnette retired four of the five batters he faced in his second rehab appearance for Double-A Frisco on Friday. Barnette, recovering from a lower back strain, allowed one hit and threw 14 pitches, 12 for strikes. The right-hander said he's "willing and able" to return and could be activated as soon as Sunday.

• Starter Tim Lincecum said the blister on his right middle finger, which has kept him out of competition since Spring Training, is progressing. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday in Oakland and is scheduled to throw another one Sunday.

Joey Gallo batted fifth Saturday after hitting in the No. 2 hole in each of the first nine games. Among Banister's stated reasons for the change: Beltre's day off and the absence of speedy leadoff man Delino DeShields. Gallo was batting .184 with two homers prior to Saturday.

"A guy who's still a young, developing player, you want him to try to feel as comfortable and have as much success as you possibly can. [We can] back off the flame a little bit [and] maneuver Joey to maybe a little different comfort zone."

• Including Saturday's game, the Rangers have played just six games with first-pitch temperatures lower than 50 degrees in the 24-plus seasons since Globe Life Park opened. Beltre and Elvis Andrus have both had success at the plate in cold weather. Beltre entered Friday 13-for-36 (.361) in games with first-pitch temperatures of 49 or less, and Andrus is at .360 (9-for-25).

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Rangers on Saturday.

Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels