E. Beltre, Profar have different views on Classic
With both pursuing roster spots, outfielder plans to play while infielder may pass
ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Engel Beltre and infielder Jurickson Profar both have dreams of being in the big leagues.Beltre believes that path runs through the World Baseball Classic. Profar isn't as sure, and he is undecided about playing for the Netherlands in the tournament this spring. "I don't know yet, I'm thinking about it," Profar said. "Maybe I have a chance to make the [Rangers]. That's why I'm thinking about it; see where I'm at and what's going to happen." Profar, who was at the Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday to meet with new hitting coach Dave Magadan, is a native of Curacao. The island is defined as a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is why Profar is eligible to play for the Dutch in the World Baseball Classic. He is listed on their provisional roster, but has yet to commit.
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Profar likes the idea of "playing with my friends that I grew up with and representing my country ... and it's good competition."As far as playing for the Rangers, Profar is facing some obstacles. Texas has a set infield of Adrian Beltre at third, Elvis Andrus at short, Ian Kinsler at second and Mitch Moreland at first. Right now, the only opening is as a utility infielder, and the Rangers are reluctant to use Profar in that limited role. The possibility exists that Profar could start the season at Triple-A Round Rock rather than on the bench in Arlington. "If it's like that, I just have to go there and play," Profar said. "There's nothing I can do."
Spring Training would give Profar a chance to change the Rangers' minds. Andrus is playing for Venezuela and Adrian Beltre is playing for the Dominican Republic in the Classic. Both will be away for several weeks at least, which would allow Profar to get significant playing time in Cactus League games and show the club what he can do.The Rangers already have a pretty good idea, but still aren't sure if they want their top Minor League prospect to be sitting on the bench. Profar spent last season at Double-A Frisco before his September callup and has yet to play in Triple-A. He won't turn 20 until next month. But Profar is willing to serve as a utility infielder. "I will do everything I can to be in the big leagues," Profar said. "I would do that to help the team." Engel Beltre is on Spain's team in the Classic. He is from the Dominican Republic, but his father is from Spain and he is eligible to play for the team. Beltre was on the Spain team that won the qualifying tournament over France, Israel and South Africa in the fall. Beltre isn't likely to make the Rangers under any circumstances. He has yet to play at Triple-A, having spent the past 2 1/2 years at Double-A. Beltre hit .261 with 80 runs, 17 doubles, 17 triples, 13 home runs, 55 RBIs and 36 stolen bases last season. He had a .307 on-base percentage and a .420 slugging percentage. But playing for Spain would also keep Beltre away from the Rangers for at least several weeks. Nelson Cruz is also playing for the Dominican Republic, so Beltre would miss out on some extra playing time for the Rangers. He is still committed to Spain, a team that has an uphill battle to get past the first round. Spain is in Pool C, which will be played March 7-10 in Puerto Rico. The other three teams are Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It would be a huge upset if Spain is one of the two teams that advances to the next round. "I think it's a good thing in my career to play at that level and play against different countries," Beltre said. "I'll try to do good there and see what happens to my career." The Rangers leave it up to players to decide if they will participate. Derek Holland is pitching for the United States, but Matt Harrison and Joe Nathan both turned down the opportunity. Yu Darvish also turned down a chance to pitch for Japan and Alexi Ogando did the same for the Dominican Republic. "I think it a good thing to gain experience against the best competition in the world, for them to play in the World Baseball Classic," Magadan said. "The best of both worlds would be to be in camp with us and play in the [Classic]." Outfielder Leonys Martin doesn't have that choice. He defected from Cuba two years ago and the closed communist country does not use professional players from the U.S. But Martin, who played for Cuba in the 2009 tournament, will be watching this one as well and rooting for his home country. "Of course, I would love for Cuba to win," Martin said. "First of all, I am Cuban."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.