- Associated Press - Friday, February 25, 2011

SURPRISE, ARIZ. (AP) - New Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre will miss at least the first week of spring training games, and likely more after that, because of a bothersome right calf strain.

The Rangers want to be cautious with their key offseason acquisition after an MRI showed an overstretching muscle but no tear. Beltre had never had any issues with his calf.

“I think we’re handling this in a very responsible and conservative matter considering where we are in the spring and the nature of who the player is,” assistant general manager Thad Levine said Friday.

Levine said Beltre wouldn’t play in a game for at least 10-14 days, though the third baseman is expected to be ready for the regular season opener April 1 against Boston. The spring training opener is Sunday.

“Nobody wants to be hurt, especially coming into spring training. But you want to look at the positive side, it’s better to happen now than the season,” Beltre said. “Now is enough time to get healthy 100 percent and be ready to break camp healthy 100 percent.”

Beltre got a guaranteed $80 million, five-year contract last month that also includes a vesting option for a sixth year and $16 million more. That free agent signing prompted the Rangers to make six-time All-Star Michael Young, who played third base the last two seasons, their primary designated hitter and utility infielder.

Young was away from camp for the second day on Friday tending to a personal family matter, but was expected back Saturday.

Manager Ron Washington said he isn’t planning for Young to be the everyday third baseman during Beltre’s absence.

“I’m still going to move (Young) around down here in the spring,” Washington said. “We have to get him versatile because we expect Beltre to be ready opening day. So Michael is going to play third, he’s going to play at second, he’s going to play at first, going to DH.”

Beltre said he initially felt discomfort in his calf after working out on a treadmill at home about a week before reporting to spring training.

“I didn’t feel a tweak, didn’t feel anything unusual,” Beltre said. “It started feeling sore after I was running.”

The Rangers held him out of running drills and an intrasquad game this week. Beltre had the MRI on Thursday after feeling more pain while taking groundballs.

“When it first happened, it was nothing serious. I was able to do everything else but running,” Beltre said. “Taking groundballs, it started being back to the first time it happened. It was sore.”

Levine said doctors determined Beltre has a grade 1 strain, the mildest kind.

Beltre insisted he could still hit and play catch. He said he would do what he felt comfortable doing and increase his activity as he feels better.

Levine said the Rangers want Beltre to take it easy over the weekend. Washington said there is plenty of time for Beltre to get ready for the start of the regular season.

“We’ve had the conversation with Adrian to make him understand that the finish line is,” Washington said. “The finish line is April 1, not Feb. 25.”

In the Rangers’ second intrasquad game Friday, Chris Davis played third base for the lineup made up of the expected starters. Davis also was in that role Thursday.

Beltre, a two-time Gold Glove winner, hit .321 with 28 homers, 102 RBIs and 49 doubles in 154 games last year in his only season with Boston and was an All-Star for the first time in his 13-season career. He became a free agent after turning down a $10 million player option.

In 1,835 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1998-04), Seattle (2005-09) and Boston, Beltre is a .275 career hitter. Since playing 77 games as a 19-year-old rookie, Beltre has averaged 147 games per season.

Young last month requested a trade from the Rangers, who tried unsuccessfully to accommodate his request even though they preferred keeping him in his new role. Young reported to camp on time and said he was ready to prepare for the season, a comforting fact for Washington.

“Without a doubt, without a doubt,” Washington said. “That’s our depth right now, that’s why we have all the versatility we have.”

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