It’s been 17 seasons since Carlos Beltran was named Rookie of the Year with the Kansas City Royals. His professional baseball career has reached the legal drinking age — he was drafted by that organization in 1995 — and it’s been a long time since he was the waif with the pencil-thin mustache and unlimited potential.
So though it’s no secret that Beltran’s life as a major-league baseball player is in its twilight, there are instances — such as his first two at-bats against his old (old, old) club in the Yankees’ 6-3 win over the Royals on Monday night — when it seems as if no time has passed at all.
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It was Beltran, after all, who pounced on Chris Young’s second pitch of the second inning and drove it high toward the Modell’s sign in rightfield for a solo home run, breaking a tie at 1 and pacing the Yankees’ home run parade against the beleaguered righthander. One inning later, he victimized Young again, blasting a 3-and-2 fastball over the rightfield fence for the Yankees’ fifth home run and ending the pitcher’s night.
The Yankees have been ravaged by injuries, but Beltran has played every game this season, and the team needs every bit of vintage Beltran he can muster.
He’s now hit safely in eight straight games against the Royals and has reached safely in 22 of 23 games (including walks and hit-by-pitches) against his former team.
“Oh, it’s big,” Joe Girardi said of Beltran’s production. “I know at some point, we’ll probably have to pick a day here to give him a day [off]. I’m trying to DH him as much as possible to keep his bat in the lineup, but it’s nice to see.”
This was the 38th multi-homer game of Beltran’s prolific career, fifth among active players. He has 398 homers, surpassing Mark Teixeira (397) for fourth-most by a switch hitter (Chipper Jones is third with 468). There’s little doubt he’ll hit 400 homers — a club that currently has only 63 members — and that, along with 311 career stolen bases, is not only the basis of a good baseball career but a stellar one.
But despite all the accomplishments, there’s little time these days for Beltran to think about legacy. Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia are on the disabled list and Jacoby Ellsbury is listed as day-to-day. Beltran’s contributions aren’t footnotes to a career, they’re necessary to the Yankees’ survival.
“Honestly, I don’t come to the ballpark thinking about them,” he said of his milestones. “I think right now my main focus is trying to do the best I can to help this organization and help this team win ballgames, so once I get there, I get there.”