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Beckham makes his case to stick at shortstop

MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Good Major League teams have competition and depth at different positions.

Tim Beckham is stating his case for making the decision a hard one for the Rays once shortstop Matt Duffy returns from rehab assignment sometime in the coming weeks.

Full Game Coverage

ST. PETERSBURG -- Good Major League teams have competition and depth at different positions.

Tim Beckham is stating his case for making the decision a hard one for the Rays once shortstop Matt Duffy returns from rehab assignment sometime in the coming weeks.

Full Game Coverage

Beckham currently is in the midst of a sustained opportunity at shortstop, the position he played when the Rays made him as the overall No. 1 pick of the 2008 MLB Draft.

In Tuesday night's 5-1 Rays win over the Tigers, Beckham gave the Rays a 2-1 lead with a barreled-ball homer off Tigers starter Michael Fulmer. The ball traveled 399 feet and, according to Statcast™, the blast had a 28 degree launch angle with a 102 mph exit velocity.

"I saw [Fulmer] going fastball away, fastball away to a lot of people," Beckham said. "I was actually looking fastball away on the first pitch and I fouled it off my foot. After that, I just wanted to slow myself down and make sure I saw the ball. Slowed myself down. Saw the ball. And put the barrel on it."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he was sure Fulmer wasn't trying to put the slider Beckham hit where he did.

"He was trying to go down and away more, and it kind of came out of his hand up," Ausmus said.

Beckham flexed his muscles, but also showed his speed when he started a rally in the seventh by beating out an infield single and scoring the Rays' fourth run. He showed some fancy glove work.

Video: DET@TB: Kiermaier doubles to the gap, scores Beckham

"Obviously, nobody's ever questioned Beck's competitiveness," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He wants to be out there. He likes to be out there and performing well like he did tonight. That's outstanding."

Entering the 2017 season, Beckham had made just 45 Major League starts at shortstop. And the Rays didn't have him penciled in to make many this season after they traded for Duffy and expected him to break camp as the starting shortstop.

Duffy has been delayed. His surgically repaired left heel has not returned to form as quickly as the team hoped. That created opportunity, and Beckham has done everything he can to take advantage of his opportunity.

"I'm getting the opportunity to play, man," Beckham said. "And it feels good to be out there every day. Even feels good to struggle. It feels good to play a ball game every day. I just want to go out and take it game by game, at-bat by at-bat, and try and help my team with the ballgame."

Nobody's saying Duffy won't be the shortstop when he returns, but the Rays would like nothing better than to see Beckham shine enough to make the decision tougher than anticipated.

"Look, I think [Beckham] quickly realized he had an opportunity to get a lot of playing time," Cash said. "And tonight he contributed in a huge way. He helped us win a ballgame defensively, and with his bat."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

 

Tampa Bay Rays, Tim Beckham