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Keeping Beltre healthy a Rangers priority

Texas taking it slow this spring with third baseman
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have good reason for taking it slow with third baseman Adrian Beltre this spring.

"Because I'm old," Beltre said before taking the field against the Giants on Monday in his first game of the spring.

View Full Game Coverage

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have good reason for taking it slow with third baseman Adrian Beltre this spring.

"Because I'm old," Beltre said before taking the field against the Giants on Monday in his first game of the spring.

View Full Game Coverage

Spring Training information

Beltre, who was 2-for-2 with a single and a double in Texas' 5-4 victory over the Giants, is going to be 39 on April 7 but the Rangers' concerns go deeper than that. Manager Jeff Banister said keeping Beltre on the field as much as possible may be his most important challenge this year.

"I think we're being a little more cognizant of him being [aware] to where things have gone in the past," Banister said. "I think he's done a great job of really understanding his body and where's he at and how he needs to get ready. We don't need for him to be ready to compete in early Spring Training games. We need Adrian to be ready Opening Day and for the long haul."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Rangers had a difficult time keeping Beltre on the field last season and the problems began even before Spring Training when he suffered a strained right calf muscle working out at his home in California. He tried to play through it -- even joining the Dominican Republic for the World Baseball Classic -- and ended up making it worse. Instead of being ready for Opening Day, Beltre missed the first two months of the season.

That's why he has been limited so far this spring and doing much of his work indoors. An underwater treadmill is apparently a favorite device.

"Obviously what happened last year with injuries, they want me to take my time and make sure I take it slow and my legs are ready to go," Beltre said. "Obviously I don't need 40, 50 at-bats to get ready, so why rush it?"

Getting Beltre ready for Opening Day is only the beginning. The Rangers can't afford to relax once the season begins. Beltre started last season on the disabled list and he was limited in September with a strained left hamstring muscle.

Beltre injured the hamstring Aug. 31 in the Rangers' 45th game after the All-Star break. Beltre had started all 45 of those games, although seven were at designated hitter.

"He is, obviously, a monster in our lineup," Banister said. "Having the best version of Adrian for as many games as we can is the goal."

Beltre still played at a high level when he was healthy. He played in 94 games, finishing with a .312 batting average, 17 home runs and 71 RBIs. He also had a .383 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage, for a .915 OPS that was the fourth highest in his 20-year career.

"This is Spring Training; you get your mind ready and your body ready to play in maybe 180 games all the way through postseason," Beltre said. "I have been doing this a long time so I don't need that many repetitions. My mindset is to play 140-plus at third base but we'll see how that goes. I'm not putting any limitations. My main focus is to be in the field as much as I can."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre