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Beckham proves having No. 1 MLB pick is game of chance

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Published:   |   Updated: March 8, 2013 at 09:55 AM
PORT CHARLOTTE -

He remembers the look on his mother Ella’s face when he told her he was buying her a house with some of his $6 million signing bonus after the Rays made him the first player taken in the 2008 draft _ No. 1.

“Knowing that she was living in a one-room apartment, for me to be able to give her a big house with a big yard outside of where I grew up, it was great,” Tim Beckham said.

He makes himself remember last April, that long pause on the other end of phone line, then the pain in his father Jimmy’s voice after he learned his youngest son had been suspended 50 games for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program _ for marijuana use.

Tim Beckham might have made the major leagues last season, for the first time, if it hadn’t been for that. It fueled the notion that Beckham might be a costly swing and a miss for the Rays, a bust, not a Buster, as in Posey.

“It was the hardest to tell my Pops,” Beckham said. “My father works for General Motors. He got up at 4 o’clock in the morning and drove 45 minutes to an hour to work just to put food on the table.”

Jimmy Beckham told his son, “What’s done is done. Handle your business. Keep your head up.”

Tim Beckham isn’t out of chances. He’s at spring training, upbeat, smiling, trying to make the majors, again. He’ll start in the minors, Durham, Triple-A, again, then we’ll see.

“I just try to learn from my mistakes and put everything in the rear view mirror,” Beckham said. “I messed up. It definitely wasn’t a smart decision, letting my teammates, this organization and my family down ... But it’s 2013. The sky is the limit. We have a great team here, everything we need to make a push. And I think I can help this team do that, I think I can produce.”

It’s 2013. You move on. That’s just it: Beckham, once the top prospect in all of baseball, hasn’t moved fast enough. The 23-year-old middle infielder is entering his sixth professional season, having climbed the ladder in the minors, always slowed by his bat which noticeably trails his glove. Funny, when Beckham was drafted, people worried more about the defense.

He used to be in every list of baseball’s top prospects. No more. Baseball America lists him as the Rays’ No. 10 prospect, but there are other Rays prospects to talk about, most notably a newcomer, minor league player of the year Wil Myers.

Beckham is a pleasant kid with a sunny smile, and a hard worker, but at this point he suffers by comparison. The year before he was taken first, the Rays chose David Price at No. 1. It’s unfair _ Price was older than Beckham and played college ball. But he soared. Beckham has stalled.

And there are the men picked after Beckham in that 2008 draft, one of whom went four spots after Tim Beckham at No. 5: Buster Posey. Not that the Rays have ever needed a catcher or the odd batting champion.

“I don’t hear (Posey’s) name as much as maybe you guys do when you talk about it,” Beckham said. He laughed. “I can’t look at Wil (Myers) and compare him to me. I’m happy for him. More power to him and I hope he has a heck of a major league career.

“There have been a lot of expectations. But if you’re going to succeed at this game, you can’t look at it that way, at the failure rate, or who’s the next guy after you, what the next guy does. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing ... I feel a hundred percent confident in my game. I still work my tail of all day every day.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon loves the 2013 model Beckham:

“I’m really seeing a guy who can be a major league middle infielder, shortstop or second baseman,” Maddon said. . “’I’m seeing an improved swing. I’m seeing a shorter swing. I’m seeing more of an understanding of what he’s doing at the plate. Consistent offense. That’s what I told him. Everything else he does, he could pretty much play here right now.”

“I have no doubt I’m going to get there,” Beckham said. “When I get there, I’ll be ready.”

It’s 2013, a new season, another chance. You only get so many.

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