By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre made a throw across the diamond during a fielding drill for the Texas Rangers that was high and beyond the reach of Lance Berkman.
“I thought you were taller. Sorry,” Beltre shouted out with a smile to the first baseman.
The veteran Rangers, who both have dealt with right calf issues early in an extended spring training, seemed at ease and with no problems during the team workout on a back field Saturday morning. They aren’t playing in spring training games yet, but there really isn’t any reason to hurry them with five weeks to go before the regular season opener.
A day earlier, 38-year-old closer Joe Nathan threw live batting practice for the first time, a week after the rest of the pitchers in camp. He has no physical issues, and instead is staying on his normal spring pace.
“Absolutely, there’s no sense in changing something we’re doing just because there’s a tournament,” Nathan said.
“They know exactly what they need to get ready, and we’re going to give them that time,” manager Ron Washington said.
With the World Baseball Classic this spring, and the March 31 opener at Houston, the Rangers and other teams started playing spring training games earlier than ever. Texas has already played two of its 38 scheduled spring training games.
Beltre, who is skipping the first round of the WBC for the Dominican Republic, said he doesn’t need many games to get ready for the season.
“(The Rangers) want me to take it slow. I think we’re looking at maybe the end of next week to make sure everything is OK,” said Beltre, going into the third season of his five-year deal with Texas. “We’re not trying to push anything yet, no reason for it now.”
The 37-year-old Berkman played only 32 games for St. Louis last season because of two operations on his right knee and a left calf strain.
A week into camp after an offseason of rehabilitation, the switch-hitting Berkman started feeling something in his right calf. He said it’s no big deal.
Berkman will be primarily the designated hitter and likely fill the No. 3 spot in the batting order that used to be occupied by five-time All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton. Berkman feel like he needs to get in a full spring, but isn’t worried about missing early games.
“I think I probably need that after having not played really at all last year,” Berkman said. “I don’t look at what’s happened so far as lost time but if and that was one reason to be cautious about it. Because I don’t want it to creep into the zone that I consider it lost time. ... Until we get like into the first week or two of March, I wouldn’t consider it lost time.”
There have been no such issues for Berkman as last spring when he said his knee “was just clicking and popping.”
Nathan had 37 saves and a 2.80 ERA in 66 appearances last year, his first full season since missing all of 2010 after ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow. He missed a month in 2011 with Minnesota because a flexor muscle strain in the same elbow.
Before throwing BP on Friday, Nathan was doing all other drills with his teammates.
“If you look around, I think we’ve been through enough spring trainings that we know at least a timeframe to get ourselves ready,” Nathan said of the veteran trio. “I think we’re going to know our bodies. ... We’ve got the time. We’re going to use it while we can now because we know once this thing gets rolling, it’s probably not going to stop until hopefully the beginning of November, end of October.”
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