"I can't remember the last time I played without pain," Beltre said. "It's just a matter of tolerating it."
So Beltre was able to talk his way off the disabled list and into the Rangers' lineup on Tuesday. He went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and a run scored.
As late as last Sunday in Chicago, Beltre expressed frustration about his sprained left thumb and made it clear there it was still painful when he swung the bat. But he also left Chicago telling manager Jeff Banister that he expected to be in the lineup on Tuesday.
The Rangers didn't make the final decision until after batting practice on Tuesday, but the consensus was Beltre was good enough to play.
"It had improved notably over the weekend in Chicago," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Hit off the tee, took about 50 swings on Saturday and really felt like it turned a corner. Today, felt like it took another step. He's not going to undo anything.
"It's going to hurt. It's not going to be totally pain-free. He's aware of it. It's manageable. The medical staff feels like he can't hurt it further."
Beltre grounded out twice, flied out to drive in a run, reached on an error and singled in the ninth in his first game since May 31.
"I'm not going to feel like I'm locked on, but I was productive tonight," Beltre said. "I didn't have a great game, but it wasn't bad."
Beltre started at third base with Joey Gallo in left field. Gallo was called up when Beltre was placed on the DL, but his ability to play the outfield could keep him here at least until Josh Hamilton comes back. Hamilton begins an injury rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Frisco on Wednesday and could be back as early as Monday. Until then, Gallo is still on the roster.
"It's the same mindset, a young player who needs at-bats," Daniels said. "We're not going to keep him here unless he is playing on a regular basis. Right now, he's playing on a regular basis."
The Rangers were also without outfielder Shin-Soo Choo for Tuesday's game. He was sidelined with back spasms and is day to day. The Rangers had outfielder Michael Choice ready to be called up from Triple-A Round Rock if needed. The Rangers instead sent pitcher Jon Edwards back to Round Rock to make room for Beltre.
Beltre is hitting .257 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 52 games for the Rangers this season. He hadn't faced live pitching since injuring the thumb on a slide three weeks ago, but the Rangers elected not to send him on a Minors assignment.
"I don't pretend to think he is 100 percent," Daniels said. "He is going to have to deal with this whether he waits another week or takes some at-bats on a Minor League assignment."