It was more when than if shortstop J.P. Crawford would join the Seattle Mariners this season. Tim Beckham knew that. Once a first-round draft pick who is now in his sixth major-league season and third team, Beckham had a handle on the situation when he signed a one-year deal with the Mariners.
He was here to play baseball, he said earlier this spring, and not to worry about what decisions the club might ultimately make regarding Crawford later.
“His plan is out of my reach, and out of my control,” Beckham said then. “What I can control is what I do here, and what I do to prepare myself for the game.”
Crawford’s call-up came in May, in the midst of several injuries to Seattle’s infield, and he’s made a fast impression, cementing himself as the everyday shortstop that fits snugly into the mold the Mariners are trying to create for their future.
That’s left Beckham with a much less defined role. Beckham appeared in 32 of 34 games — including making 31 starts at shortstop — between March and April. He logged 122 plate appearances, slashed at an impressive .282/.352/.527, and hit nine doubles and six homers while tallying 19 RBIs.
He was was named the American League Player of the Week for the opening week of the season, when he crushed three home runs and a 1.432 OPS in six games.
Beckham’s appearances on the lineup card were more infrequent in May and June. He made far fewer starts — 32 of 56 games — and showed up at shortstop, second, third, left field and DH.
“It’s hard,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I think players tend to get frustrated, understanding that roles do change throughout the course of the season. We’ve been trying to be as transparent as we can with Tim, and let him know what the expectations are, and kind of how his role on the team has evolved and how it is going to change — which it has.
“He’s handled it pretty well. Give him some credit. Certainly the last 10 days he’s been much more at peace with it, knowing he’s going to get an opportunity to play. It’s just going to be more sporadic, and it won’t be in the same spot every day.”
Beckham said he has tried to take the changes in stride, and make a positive impact on the days he does play.
“I’ve been playing this game for a while now, and you control what you can control,” he said. “I don’t make the lineup, so when I’m in there, what I can control is seeing pitches and swinging at good pitches, and my preparation. Just keep preparing like you’re in there every day.”
Beckham’s plate appearances were nearly cut in half after that March and April stretch — he had 68 in May and 62 in June — and the inconsistency of opportunity has led to less offensive production. His average in May was .209, in June it was .138.
“It’s been a battle, man,” Beckham said. “When you’re platooning, and trying to find your time to play, and trying to find (at-bats), it’s not easy. But, when you’re in that role, you want to go up there, and you can’t afford to miss the fastball.
“Obviously you’re not seeing at-bats, so you’re not picking up spin on pitches as well as you would if you were in the lineup every day, so you just want to put good swings on the heater, and when you get a heater in the zone, put it in play somewhere.”
When the at-bats are more regular, Beckham has shown the ability to do that. He appeared in all six games of Seattle’s most recent road trip, and Tuesday night’s homestand opener. In those 20 at-bats, he’s had a double, two homers and five RBIs.
Tuesday night against the Cardinals, he crushed the eventual game-winning home run — his 13th of the season — as a pinch-hitter in the eighth to snap Seattle’s four-game losing streak. It was the third pinch-hit homer of Beckham’s career.
“Tim got off to such a great start early in the season with the bat, then he cooled off like a lot of our guys did,” Servais said. “His work, what he’s been doing the last 10 days or so is trying to get it back going a little bit.
“I thought he swung the bat pretty well over in Houston, in that series. So (against the Cardinals we gave) him a shot leading off the inning. He had a great at-bat. … He was right on the fastballs and the breaking balls. Huge hit in the ballgame. We needed one of those.”
The Mariners officially announced four more signings from their 2019 MLB Draft class Wednesday, including right-handers Isaiah Campbell and Levi Stoudt, left-hander Adam Macko and shortstop Mike Salvatore. The club has now signed 29 of its 41 picks from the draft, including 10 of the top 11.
Campbell was Seattle’s Competitive Balance Round B pick out of Arkansas. The 21-year-old went 12-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 18 starts as a junior, and had a 125-22 strikeout-walk ratio.
Stoudt was selected in the third round out of Lehigh, and went 3-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts), while striking out 69 and walking 21. The 21-year-old threw three complete games.
Macko, an 18-year-old from Vauxhall High School in Alberta, Canada, was selected by the Mariners in the seventh round.
Salvatore was drafted in the ninth round out of Florida State, and led the Seminoles to the NCAA Super Regionals while hitting .340/.432/.536 with 23 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 51 RBIs.
Seattle also announced 12 international signings late Tuesday, including players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Brazil. Four right-handed pitchers, four infielders, two center fielders and two catchers signed.
“This is a promising group of young players that includes multiple legitimate-plus athletes who play premium positions up the middle of the field, as well as a couple of arms who have a chance to make a real impact in our organization,” director of international scouting Frankie Thon Jr. said in a release.