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Maddon on Beltre: ‘I’ve seen it before’

06.30.10 at 2:08 pm ET

Before he played for the Red Sox, Adrian Beltre‘s defensive wizardry took on a certain element of mysticism. There was the youtube video of outrageous highlights (since removed due to MLB copyright violations), but the man who perhaps did the most to crystallize Beltre’s talents was Rays manager Joe Maddon. It was he who declared at MLB’s winter meetings, while Beltre was still a free agent, that Beltre was “the best who I’ve ever seen with my two eyes — defender, not just third baseman, but defense.”

Yet while Beltre’s defensive credentials were unquestioned, he was viewed by most as something between offensively adequate and a lineup liability based on his numbers from 2005-09 (.266 average, .317 OBP, .759 OPS) with the Mariners.

And so, what he has done at the plate has been little short of shocking. Beltre went 4-for-4 on Tuesday, in his club’s 8-5 victory over the Rays, thus improving his average to .349 (second in the American League). He has a .387 OBP (second highest of his career to his .388 mark in 2004), a .561 slugging mark (9th in the AL) and .948 OPS (7th). Those stats, along with his 12 homers and 52 RBI (which have him on pace for 25 homers and 108 RBI) lead to a simple conclusion: he’s been an offensive force.

Maddon’s team has been victimized with particular frequency by Beltre. The Sox third baseman is hitting .500/.517/.893/1.410 against the Rays with two homers and seven runs batted in against Tampa Bay.

No one in the baseball world anticipated this sort of eruption. Yet while Maddon makes no pretense of having foreseen this turn of events, the Rays skipper notes that he has seen it from Beltre before — but that it had been a long time.

“He hadn’€™t done it in a couple of years, but what you’€™re seeing right now is what I saw with the Angels [as a bench coach in the first half of this decade] when he was with the Dodgers. I’€™ve seen it before,” said Maddon. “I’€™ve seen really good offensively in the past. It only surprises me because he’€™s been away from that for a couple years. … I know he loves to play. From the beginning of the year, from my perspective, he was just getting used to playing in Boston. He appears to be pretty comfortable right now.”

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