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Rays take glass half-full approach with Beckham

Maddon still views former No. 1 overall pick as future Major League star

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Evaluating Tim Beckham can be complicated.

Perhaps the best method for examining the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft is to take one of the following approaches: glass half-full or glass half-empty.

Opinions differ drastically in both cases.

If you're an optimist, you look past the dashboard to the horizon ahead and you will rationalize that Beckham is just 23 years old, he's got an engaging manner, he's athletic, and he's knocking on the door of becoming a Major Leaguer.

If you're a pessimist, you look in the rearview mirror and Buster Posey's image is the first thing you see. Had the Rays not drafted Beckham, the Rays' No. 14 prospect, they could have drafted Posey, the Giants' All-Star catcher and reigning National League Most Valuable Player. In another glance back you would see Beckham receiving a 50-game suspension last season for marijuana use.

Both viewpoints are reasonable. And, obviously, nobody knows how things will turn out. The one certainty is that the first option is the only avenue the Rays can travel.

Every spring, manager Joe Maddon conducts individual conversations with each player in camp. The Rays manager noted that he did not address Beckham's 2012 indiscretion in this year's conversation with the youngster.

"No, I didn't, because for me that's in the past," Maddon said. "I'm sure he's gotten lectures from a lot of different people in the organization. I see him as a great kid. … There are so many things about him that are positive. That's been addressed, we've moved on from that point. And what I'm seeing is this really bright-eyed, talented middle infielder that wants to learn and that's what my whole approach has been with him."

Energy and enthusiasm are conveyed in every step Beckham makes. Rarely will you see the youngster from Griffin, Ga., without a smile on his face. Last summer's indiscretion embarrassed him. He learned his lesson. Now he feels stronger having gone through the ordeal.

"I got myself into a situation," Beckham said. "Obviously, I made my bed and had to lay in it. You can't look at the ifs and buts of it. You just have to deal with it. It's something that happened in the past. I'm here this spring to help the team play and win games. So, I'll go about it that way. I'm not thinking about what happened last summer."

As opposed to Spring Trainings past, Beckham finds himself under the radar this spring. Now that he has experienced both sides of the coin, he said he's not concerned about whether he's in the spotlight or not.

"I mean you still have to come out and go about your business the same way if you were above the radar," Beckham said. "Either way, you have to come out and produce and put up numbers and that's what we're all here to do."

While others might classify Beckham as someone dancing precariously on a fine line between making it and becoming a bust, he thinks his career is still on the upswing.

"Every spring I feel like I'm getting better and I'm trying to learn," Beckham said. "I'm learning stuff every day. We all want to be the best, so we all look forward to learning different things every day."

Maddon believes Beckham "has a really high ceiling as a Major League player."

"He can play either second base or shortstop well. He's got a fine arm, he moves great," Maddon said. "Offensively, that's the part that has to come on a more consistent basis."

In that vein, the Rays are working with Beckham on some ways to simplify his swing a bit. Swing adjustments aside, Maddon thinks Beckham is close to ready.

"This guy's got the charisma and aptitude to be a Major League baseball player," Maddon said. "… I see him playing at a very high end for a very long time."

Beckham believes in his future, too.

"I still think I'm going to have a long career and I'm going to do everything I can to do that as far as off the field and on the field," Beckham said.

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

{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
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