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Orioles' Tim Beckham getting ahead of learning curve with early work at third

Orioles Tim Beckham is confident in his ability to make transition to playing third base this season. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun video)

SARASOTA, FLA. — Position players aren’t required to report to the Orioles’ spring training complex until today, but Tim Beckham’s work on the back fields at Ed Smith Stadium started a week ago as he began getting an early education on his transition to third base.

On Saturday afternoon, Beckham — who will shift to third as the Orioles move Manny Machado to his original position of shortstop — manned the hot corner, taking grounders hit to him from infield coach Bobby Dickerson. Beckham, 28, smoothly ranged to his left, going down the line and backhanding balls. He looked comfortable, and Dickerson, who was the organization’s infield coordinator before joining the major league staff, played a major role in grooming Machado and Jonathan Schoop, so Beckham has a good teacher.

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“It’s been going smooth,” Beckham said. “Just working on the transition over to third and just getting reps over there. Getting as many repetitions as I can before the actual camp starts, not being too familiar with the position. I don’t want to go out there first day of camp and look like I never know where I’ve been. I wanted to get down early and get some work in with Bobby Dickerson and attack this spring.”

Manny Machado won two Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove at third base, but said shortstop "is where my heart has always been."

Beckham, who has made just five major league starts at third base, provided the Orioles a spark when they acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays at the nonwaiver trade deadline. He gave the Orioles the leadoff man they had been lacking, was named American League Player of the Week after his first week with the club. Even though he made 18 errors in 119 games at shortstop in 2017, the team ended the season committed to Beckham at shortstop.

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But last month, the decision was made to shift Machado, who won two Gold Glove Awards and a Platinum Glove at third, to shortstop in his final year before reaching free agency. Beckham spent January working out in California with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, but didn’t find out he was moving to third until late last month when he arrived in Baltimore for FanFest. Nonetheless, he’s all-out embraced the move.

“I think Tim’s a guy who isn’t going to look at it as an excuse to fail, a lot like Manny,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s going to figure some things out. There’s going to be some moments. Anybody who is going to follow Manny for the most part is going … it’s going to be hard to hold that standard, but we don’t expect him to. But I think he’s smart enough to know that nobody knows what the future holds of our shortstop positon as we go forward.”

Beckham will continue to take grounders at third throughout the first full-squad workouts this week, but he realizes the real test will begin when Grapefruit League games begin Friday.

“Definitely excited,” Beckham said. “I’m definitely excited to get it going. I think people have got a lot to look forward to. Whoever is doubting me at third base, I think they’ve got a lot to look forward to. I’m ready to get out there and play some ball.

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“I’ve just been doing drills right now and working on our footwork over at third,” Beckham said. “Whatever’s going to surprise me I think is going to happen in a game, and being able to make those in-game plays and in-game adjustments and just taking those in-game angles to the ground balls – hard ground balls and the slow ground balls. Just making the in-game adjustments as far as when the game starts, I feel like that’s when that will take place.”

Beckham said the footwork at third base isn’t much different from shortstop, but playing closer in doesn’t allow for much reaction time, which will make executing his footwork more important.

“So far it’s been a couple adjustments,” Beckham said. “Just making those adjustments and getting used to making them on a consistent basis. Shortstop is kind of — you’ve got a lot more time and you want to go get everything. But third base, you kind of just chill and play your position.”

Beckham will benefit from having an entire spring to adjust. He made four of his five career starts at third during the 2015 season with the Rays. That year, he played every infield position. Now he can concentrate on just one and learn all the nuances that come with it.

“Just getting out there and learning the bunt plays and everything like that, that’s what I have to get used to,” Beckham said. “I didn't do any bunt plus or PFPs or anything like that. I’m just ready to get it going.”

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