Beltré's 'football' tips prep Ibáñez for 3B

March 23rd, 2022
Ben Ludeman

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When Adrián Beltré walked onto the backfields in full uniform at the Rangers’ Surprise Recreation Complex, he looked like he could step right back onto the field and play third base in 2022, four years after his retirement.

While he did take ground balls, Beltré spent most of his two days in Arizona hitting fungos and watching batting practice. Beltré and fellow Rangers Hall of Famer Michael Young joined the club in Surprise as special guest instructors during camp.

And while neither will suit up for a game this year, they each spent their time assisting and coaching the Rangers infielders heading into this season.

With the Rangers' third base job in flux following top hitting prospect Josh Jung’s injury, Andy Ibáñez looks to be the frontrunner to start the season at the hot corner.

“I’ve been working a lot on [my defense] this offseason,” Ibáñez said through interpreter Raul Cardenas. “I want to give thanks to my coaches and Adrián Beltré who have been talking to me and helping me out. I just want to get better and just listen to those guys. It's really paid off for me. I’ve been working really hard.”

Ibáñez spent the most time with Beltré, picking up tips as he moved from his primary position of second back over to the other side of the infield. He started just 10 games at third base as a rookie last year, while spending most of his time at second (28 starts) and first (11 starts).

“A lot of my talk with [Beltré] was about football,” Ibáñez said. “And how to prepare myself before the ball gets hit and which angles I’m going to be throwing the ball to. Just a lot of footwork talk with him.

“Everything that he showed me, I have a lot of respect for. He's been in the game for a long, long time. For somebody like him to be able to give me that type of information is invaluable.”

When coming up as a prospect, Ibáñez’s main downfall was his defense. In his one year in the big leagues, he’s developed into a more than serviceable infielder. So the question remains: Is Ibáñez the Rangers' Opening Day third baseman?

He looked around at the group of reporters addressing him and said, in English, “I want it.”

“It’s what I really, really want,” Ibáñez added in Spanish.

White cleared to play
According to Rangers manager Chris Woodward, outfielder Eli White has been fully cleared for all baseball activities and will return to the outfield in the Rangers’ game against the Royals on Friday.

White had an internal brace surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow that ended his 2021 season in August. He has been ramping up since the start of camp. He was cleared to hit during the lockout but started throwing to bases when he reported to Surprise.

While White struggled at the big league level with a .177/.259/.308 slash line in 2021, he’s reworked his swing with Rangers hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Tim Hyers and is looking for a breakout season.

Woodward said White has a good chance of making the Opening Day roster, whether that’s as a starter in center field or as a fourth outfielder.

“He's got to do some things offensively,” Woodward said. “He's made some good strides. But I want to see some consistency there. He's got to maintain that, that's the thing. If we think that he's not ready offensively, then instead of keeping him as a fourth outfielder, maybe getting him more at-bats [in Triple-A] to start could be an option, just for his sake until he's locked down as far as the offense goes.”

Rangers avoid arbitration with four eligible players
Texas extended its streak of avoiding salary arbitration hearings since 2000 by agreeing to deals with its four eligible players ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to exchange numbers: catcher Mitch Garver, outfielder/designated hitter Willie Calhoun and left-handed pitchers Taylor Hearn and Brett Martin.

The last player the Rangers went to an arbitration hearing with was Lee Stevens ahead of the 2000 season. He was then sent to Montreal later that spring in a three-team trade that brought the Rangers David Segui.

Per a source, the one-year deals agreed to were :
• Garver: $3.335 million
• Calhoun: $1.3 million
• Hearn: $1.05 million
• Martin: $1.025 million