Maddon Maintains Rays View Beckham As Shortstop





ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.—Rays officials make it clear, anytime the question comes up, that they remain optimistic about Tim Beckham and feel the 2008 No. 1 overall draft pick is getting close to being a major leaguer.

Also, that he's still a shortstop.

"I can't emphasize that enough," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "This guy's a shortstop."

But the Rays made it more of a question by playing Beckham at second base several times during spring training. And it makes sense, given the rise of their other top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, who opened this season at Double-A Montgomery after spending most of 2011 at high Class A Charlotte.

Beckham, 22, opened the season at Triple-A Durham, where he played the last 24 games of 2011, batting .255/.282/.462 after a hitting .275/.339/.395 at Montgomery.

From what Maddon said, the spring training shift to second was something of an experiment, one that could make him "even more valuable down the line." There also has been talk that the Rays would move Beckham from shortstop to the outfield, as they did with B.J. Upton.

"We wanted to give him a little bit of exposure somewhere else in the event his bat gets ready and we have a need somewhere else," Maddon said. "He might be able to fill a need at another position. We like him at shortstop a lot. This adds to his résumé."

Beckham said he was fine with doing whatever the Rays asked, but he also considers himself a shortstop.

His progress has always been a subject of conversation because the Rays chose him instead of catcher Buster Posey in 2008, and it's even more of a topic because the Rays don't have a long-term answer behind the plate. But Maddon said the Rays remain confident Beckham will be an impact player.

"I've liked his growth and his progress," he said.

COOL RAYS

• The Rays purchased righthander Matt Buschmann, who was David Price's roommate at Vanderbilt, from the Nationals and sent him to Montgomery.

• Catcher Craig Albernaz once again proved his value to the organization, helping out a shorthanded bullpen at Durham with two relief appearances in the first week of the season. Albernaz, who had pitched five times previously, worked two scoreless innings.