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Orioles, Tim Beckham not concerned about slow start at the plate for new third baseman

April 17, 2018 - The Orioles lose to the Tigers. 4-2. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)

DETROIT — Tim Beckham was put back at third base Tuesday after a sojourn from the position this weekend, an attempt to provide him with some consistency as he looks to give the Orioles the same.

It's been a slow start to the season at the plate for Beckham, who swapped positions with Manny Machado from his preferred spot at shortstop to a new role at the hot corner.

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But that has nothing to do with the struggles that have the Orioles last in the majors in production from third base. Beckham blames his plate discipline. Manager Buck Showalter chalks it up to the weather. Either way, there's not much concern that it won't turn around.

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman was given an extra bullpen session between starts as he was moved out of turn in the rotation and will pitch Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.

"We know Timmy is better offensively — and so is a lot of other guys," Showalter said. "It's all over baseball. Some guys, it'll be interesting to see if guys who are off to great starts have been playing in warmer weather. I don't know. But I give him a pass on that. He'll hit. He's always been a threat offensively. That will come."

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Beckham entered Tuesday batting .175 (11-for-63) with a home run, three doubles and 24 strikeouts to go with a .479 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. As the Orioles continue to assess what they have in him, they'll be troubled that he's more like the Beckham who struck out 32.7 percent of the time with a 52.4 percent ground ball rate from Sept. 1 on last year than the one who sprayed line drives all over the park en route to a 1.062 OPS in August.

He has a 55 percent ground ball rate and a 35.8 percent strikeout rate this year, according to FanGraphs.

"I just need to be more disciplined," Beckham said. "I'm swinging at pitches out of the zone, and whenever you're swinging at pitches out of the zone, you're not going to have much success. I just want to tighten up my discipline at the plate, and everything will work well. ... Weather has nothing to do with it. No excuses. I'm not playing good baseball right now at the plate. I continue to play good baseball on defense, and the bat's going to be there. I'm going to hit for sure."

Showalter spent the spring focused on Beckham's transition to third base more than his new third baseman's bat, and he felt Tuesday that his defense has been solid. According to FanGraphs, Beckham has been worth one defensive run saved (DRS) through the first two-plus weeks of the season, though he's been charged with two errors.

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Every day before batting practice, he's doing a different drill with third-base coach Bobby Dickerson to practice the fundamentals of the position. Showalter has told him to just be an infielder, as has Dickerson.

"When you think about all the things that [he's done], he's worked very hard at it," Showalter said. "He's been OK over there."

Beckham feels the benefit of all that once the games begin.

"It definitely helps out with day-to-day maintenance, just getting more comfortable at the position," Beckham said. "I'm comfortable at third, second, short, wherever I need to be. I'm going to keep playing baseball. That's what it is."

He hopes his defense can help keep him valuable to the team as he waits for his bat to come around.

"I'm comfortable," Beckham said. "It's coming along, and it's still early. We don't want to make something small and blow it out of proportion; you take it day-in and day-out. Even if I was the hottest hitter in the clubhouse, you still want to take it day-in and day out and play good baseball. You're not always going to be on. You're not always going to be hot. It's about how you go about your business, and how you handle your work when you're not hot.

"It's not late in the season at all. I'm A-OK, ready to rock, baby."

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