SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers didn't waste any time. Third baseman Adrian Beltre's torment has already begun and his smooth head is already under siege.Not surprisingly, shortstop Elvis Andrus is spearheading the attack, but there are plenty of teammates who have caught the contagious compulsion to rub Beltre's head. "Oh yeah ... a bunch of times," Andrus said. "He better get used to it. He might kick my tail, but I'm going to do it." Beltre is used to it. He doesn't like it, but apparently, he has no choice. "Yeah, they've already started doing it," he said with a smile. "Just about everybody."
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At least he's escaped from Victor Martinez. They were teammates with the Red Sox last year, and Martinez was fanatical about tormenting Beltre by rubbing his head. Their playful confrontations were Internet video fodder, especially one that showed Beltre taking a swipe at Martinez during a Red Sox home run celebration.Initial reports suggested that Martinez and Beltre had brawled in the dugout. Then it was revealed that it was not a one-time incident but part of Beltre's year-long torment at the hands of Martinez. "He wasn't the first, but he was the one who took it to the extreme," Beltre said. At the time, Beltre vowed revenge. He suggested that Martinez's injured big toe might be an inviting target. "Sometimes I thought about killing him," Beltre said. "But I thought about it. ... I have a family so I didn't." Beltre insisted he did exact some sort of revenge against Martinez at one point during the season but doesn't want to say what he did. "It wasn't exactly what I wanted," Beltre said. "But I might see him at some point during the season and do something really nice." Martinez, though, wasn't the one who started it all. Beltre said the head-rubbing began during his time in Seattle. Again, he won't reveal who was the first guy to do it. "It was my fault," Beltre said. "I don't remember, but somebody did it and I told them I didn't like it. That's like telling them to do it again. You know they're going to do it because you don't like it. So they started doing it over and over again. "It's all in fun. It's not like I enjoy it, but I know guys try to have fun. Some guys overdo it, but it's no big deal." This was probably inevitable in Texas, considering the Rangers were the ones who came up with the Claw and Antlers battle cry last year that became all the rage during their drive to the World Series. Andrus and fellow infielder Andres Blanco were also the ones who constantly preyed on teammates during postgame television interviews, smacking them in the face with their whipped-cream pies. So why should Beltre be immune. "Everybody has got something," infielder Michael Young said. "He's a great guy ... a great guy. I can't say enough good things about him. But I knew that about him going back to Seattle." Not that everybody is eager to take on Beltre. "I've faked him out a couple of times, but I'm not ready to take that next step," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I have to get to know him better, but that day's coming," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. What's odd is Beltre's short haircut hardly stands out in the Rangers' clubhouse. His head is not completely shaven and there are plenty of others in the clubhouse who have less. The Rangers' clubhouse overflows with tattoos, but there is hardly a cry for more combs, brushes and hairdryers. Players just have a thing for Beltre's head. Maybe it's good luck. "There's not really any one occasion, guys just do it," Beltre said. "Guys just find out and everybody knows about Adrian," Hamilton said. "You can tell we get him to a point where he might lose it and then we back off. You don't want it to come to a point where he doesn't want to come to work because he feels tormented." Maybe all of this just speaks to who Beltre is and what kind of teammate he is going to be with the Rangers -- that he is willing to put up with such foolishness and acclimate himself with his new teammates for the good of clubhouse camaraderie. "He has been great," Kinsler said. "All our new teammates have blended in smoothly."
"I told him that if we make the playoffs, we'll have to shoot a team picture and everybody has to have one finger on his head with his hat off," Hamilton said. "He said, 'OK.'"
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.