SARASOTA, FLA. — For all the concern about what the Orioles would get this spring from shortstop Manny Machado after an offseason full of questions about his future, the man who ceded that position — Tim Beckham — had plenty left unsettled upon arriving in Florida as well.
As Beckham, 28, prepares for a scheduled return to face his old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, at the only spring training complex he'd ever known before this year, the Orioles will bring him to Port Charlotte on Wednesday knowing that their newly christened third baseman is charting a positive course this spring.
"It's just going out and having fun, you know?" said Beckham, who has homered in twice in his past three Grapefruit League games to help him to a .273 average. "We kind of know the set positions, and I'm not going out and trying to battle for a job like every other spring in Tampa.
"It's just a beautiful feeling to go out and be able to laugh and just be yourself on a team with a high-powered offense. It's fun when everyone's hitting the ball around the park and we're beating up on everyone. That's something we want to carry over to the season."
In what's expected to be a season of transition for the Orioles on many fronts, Beckham's spring will go a long way toward putting him in position to bridge the gap between possible departures of Machado this coming offseason and second baseman Jonathan Schoop after the 2019 season. That group — plus 25-year-old left fielder Trey Mancini — has been at the heart of much of the Orioles' offensive success so far in this too-early portion of spring.
And as he shifts to third base and learns about all that comes with it, Beckham is showing that whatever pressure might accompany that move isn’t weighing on him.
"He's doing well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Tim just wants to be in a position to contribute. He's been that way since the day we got him in the trade. I was watching him over there today. He must have taken seven at-bats against those guys, then run over and fielded. I talked to him about going to Tampa Bay tomorrow, trying to get as many reps as he can at third base as we can. He's in.
"He's got trust with [third base coach Bobby Dickerson] and what's going on, and he's really trying to work on being that hitter he was the first month [he was here]. He's already made a couple plays at third base that are really encouraging."
Offensively, Beckham was two totally different players in his two months with the Orioles after the trade July 31. He batted .394/.417/.646 in August while hitting six home runs with 18 total extra-base hits, then posted a .180/.255/.348 line with seven extra-base hits from Sept. 1 on.
Taken as a one two-month stint, Beckham's time with the Orioles was still worth 2.0 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference. He hopes for more of the August edition of himself than the one that followed, when he stopped driving the ball in the air and saw his ground-ball rate soar. But neither gets much consideration in 2018, he said.
"This year is a totally, totally new year. We want to go into the season and have a winning season,” Beckham said. “I want to forget about last year. No matter who did what, no matter how well I did or how well everyone else did, we didn't get to where we wanted to be and we know that. This year is a new year, and we're going to make sure we get there.”
Some of the collective success the team's young batting core has produced in spring has made Beckham feel like that's a possibility.
"It's just confidence," Beckham said. "Anytime you go into the season with major confidence in yourself and major confidence in your team, that's a beautiful feeling. You don't want to go into the season second-guessing if you're ready or second-guessing if your timing is there. You just want to be comfortable and be confident and win ballgames."
That focus on the positive doesn't surprise Showalter. He's learned that despite the possibility of difficulties in the transition to third base that could come, or any other challenges Beckham faces, deep concern will not follow in the 2008 No. 1 overall draft pick’s mind.
"That's one of the things about Tim," Showalter said. "Tim doesn't get bogged down in that. He moves on to the next thing. That's in his makeup. He's going to get after it. What time does the game start? Let's go. He doesn't wallow in that self-pity. He's ready to take on the next challenge. If there's any doubters out there, he likes to prove them wrong. He's got a chance to bring some offensive numbers that you look for in a corner player."