Beckham dons new Detroit attire

With 10 career home runs vs. Tigers, veteran enters 2B mix in 2019

February 17th, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- acknowledged the obvious as he donned the Tigers' Spring Training gear at Joker Marchant Stadium.

"It's funny how you go different places," the former White Sox second baseman said Sunday morning. "It's a weird feeling to be in this clubhouse, back in the [American League] Central."

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His new manager, Ron Gardenhire, felt the same.

"We laughed about it," Gardenhire said. "The guy killed us."

When the Tigers owned the American League Central in the first half of this decade, Beckham tried to spoil their dreams. With 10 career home runs against Detroit, he was a nemesis.

The only team that saw as many Beckham home runs as the Tigers were the Twins, most of them when Gardenhire was Minnesota's manager.

"He had a lot of big games against us in the other organization," Gardenhire said. "Good memories -- for him."

Beckham was a 22-year-old rookie in 2009, one year removed from being a first-round Draft pick out of the University of Georgia. He's 32 now, taking what could be his final chance at a Major League job.

After bouncing around the Pacific Coast League the last two years, Beckham was looking for one last opportunity at a regular role in the big leagues. The rebuilding Tigers, led by Gardenhire, were looking for one more veteran in camp to compete for their opening at second base.

With that, this strange trio of former division rivals came together.

"I think there's a good opportunity for me here, and that's all I really wanted," Beckham said. "I just asked, 'If I come in here and play well in camp, do I have a chance to make the team?' And they said yes.

"I feel like I played well last spring and probably could've made the team and didn't, so I didn't really care about where [the opportunity] was. I just wanted the opportunity to go play and play well and deserve to make the team. That was kind of the talk we had, and that was good enough for me."

It probably helped both sides that Beckham's father-in-law, former Major League second baseman Scott Fletcher, works for the Tigers as a roving instructor. He has also worked with Beckham since last year on revamping his swing, helping raise his batting average by 40 points and his OPS by 152 points at Triple-A Tacoma.

Beckham batted .302 with 24 doubles, 10 homers, 51 RBIs and an .858 OPS at Tacoma last year, and earned four separate callups to Seattle. His lone stretch of regular playing time with the Mariners, however, was a two-week period last May after was suspended. Beckham made a couple of single-game appearances over the summer before getting a September callup.

Beckham played in just 77 Minor League games before making his Major League debut in 2009. He played 177 games in Tacoma the last two years combined. He was not interested in doing the back-and-forth in the Mariners' system again, but the experience gave him a fresh perspective.

"You don't take for granted one day in the big leagues," Beckham said. "I got up quick when I was young and didn't really do any of the Minor League stuff. The last two years, I've had guys calling me Benjamin Button. That was actually hilarious.

"It's been more of a grind the last two years in the PCL, getting up at 5 a.m. and playing a game that night. I've got a lot of motivation to do well."

This time, he'll be trying to do well for the Tigers, not against them.