Slow starts typical for Beltre

Slow starts typical for Beltre

ARLINGTON -- If someone had told Adrian Beltre coming out of Spring Training that after 32 games he would have more home runs than Red Sox slugger and fellow Dominican Republic native David Ortiz, the Mariners third baseman would have been thrilled beyond words.

In most seasons, that would be a good thing.

Not this season.

Entering Tuesday, Ortiz had no home runs and Beltre had one.

What's up with that?

"It's a Dominican thing," Beltre joked.

While Ortiz is still trying to find the swing that has produced 289 Major League home runs, the longest home run drought to start a season in Beltre's 11-year Major League career ended on Saturday night, when he hit a solo homer into the left-center-field seats at the Metrodome. It came in his 124th official at-bat of the season.

The first home run trot of 2009 was a long time coming.

It was the first time since 2001 -- when he was on the disabled list until May 12 -- that Beltre, who has 243 career home runs, did not hit at least one dinger in April.

SLOW MOTION

Adrian Beltre typically struggles in April and May, and 2009 has been no exception. Here are Beltre's stats during the first two months of each season of his career.
2009 stats are through Monday.

Year
AB
HR
RBI
BA
1999166422.301
2000175531.269
20016426.203
2002208419.250
2003176416.205
20041911236.314
2005199526.236
2006200216.229
2007193927.280
20082041225.235
2009128114.234

He has hit at least 20 home runs in six of the past seven seasons, settling for 19 in 2005, his first season with the Mariners.

"I am not a home run hitter," Beltre said, "and I usually get off to slow starts, but I don't know why. Normally, I just seem to struggle the first half of the season, and there have only been a couple of years that I got off to good starts."

The first was in 2004, when Beltre hit seven home runs in April and five in May, finishing the season with a career-best 48 circuit clouts for the Dodgers. And last season, he hit five home runs in April and seven in May, finishing with 25 home runs.

Beltre missed the final two weeks of the campaign after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and also "clean out" his left shoulder.

For the first time in two years, he reported to camp in good health, although he was held back to make sure he would be 100 percent healthy when the regular season started. The organization would not allow him to play in the World Baseball Classic.

"A.B. has been trying to find a comfortable setup to where he can do some damage," hitting coach Alan Cockrell said. "Up to now, he just hasn't been comfortable. Why? It could be a lot of things, from a feeling in his hands, to his stance.

"But he is a hard worker and a good listener. He will come out of this."

The home run seemed to break the ice, and Beltre followed that up with two more hits in Sunday's series finale against the Twins, raising his batting average to a still unacceptable .234.

"My average is real low, and I need to start getting that up," he said. "There are some days I feel OK, and other times I don't. I'm just not as consistent as I want to be.

"It was different at the beginning of the season, because we were winning games. When we lose, like we have been doing lately, I feel I have to do more."

Beltre said his thumb and shoulder are fine and once he finds the swing he's been searching for, "Everything will fall into place. I know the home runs are going to come and I expect to get into the 20s, but I'm not even thinking about hitting home runs."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.