By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas — Adrian Beltre certainly has his quirks.
Beltre appeals his own checked swings. He has a strange dance of short shuffle steps in the batter’s box when a pitch is inside or at his feet. And the Gold Glove third baseman really hates being touched on the head — a fact that gets mercilessly exploited by his Texas Rangers teammates.
“It’s just part of who I am,” Beltre said. “The thing is, they do it when I do something good. ... That moment, I’m expecting that. I’m kind of happy because I’ve done something good for the team. But I still don’t like it.”
Though Beltre was left off the American League All-Star team for the first time in four seasons, he is hitting .316 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs. He has seven homers in 13 games this month, each time scrunching his shoulders going into the dugout ready for the playful taps coming his way.
“We’re a fun-loving team, and that’s just one of those enjoyable moments that we have every single time that he hits a home run,” David Murphy said. “As much as he hates it, he seems to enjoy it at the same time.”
The 34-year-old Beltre is already in his 16th major league season — he was only 15 in the Dominican Republic when signed by the Dodgers in 1994, four years before his debut for Los Angeles.
“He’s still the same kind of kid, plays the same way,” said Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura, Beltre’s teammate with the Dodgers in 2003-04. “He was mature even as a kid. He was a great teammate. He had the respect of the clubhouse, that’s for sure.”
Beltre is now nearly halfway into his $96 million, six-year deal with the Rangers.
“He’s a big-time leader,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s intense, but he’s always been playful. The guy has fun playing the game.”