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03/05/12 12:57 PM EST

Beckham changes diet, focuses on Majors

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Changing eating habits is a part of the program for grooming prospects for the Major Leagues.

Embracing this concept meant a farewell to fast food, among other things, for Tim Beckham.

"Two double stacks and five-piece chicken nuggets," said Beckham recalling what once had been his diet. "I used to eat it every day. Or I was eating steak every night."

Beckham's baby fat is gone and he's added definition to his body thanks largely to the changes he's made.

"I changed up my eating habits," Beckham said. "I stay in the weight room longer -- work on my core, drinking more water. Just eat more grilled stuff, more salad, less Ranch dressing."

In addition to the way he looks, Beckham feels different.

"I felt a lot better last year playing at 200 than 210," Beckham said.

Other than the diet, the progression of the No. 1 pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft continues. According to Jim Hoff, Rays Minor League field coordinator, Beckham is one of the hardest workers he's ever been around. When told of Hoff's opinion, Beckham smiled.

"I just keep going man, can't stop working, right?" he said.

The last several years, Tampa Bay has heard its share of criticism for selecting Beckham with the top pick of the Draft. Questions have surfaced regarding whether he can remain a shortstop. But like the 22-year-old says, he just keeps on going.

Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn't see anything wrong with Beckham's pace to the Major Leagues.

"Just a natural progression," the Rays skipper said. "He'd be a senior in college right now. ... That's kind of nice."

Instead of starting his senior season as the big man on campus, Beckham is entering his fifth professional season and is coming off a solid 2011 campaign. The native of Griffin, Ga., hit .275 with seven home runs and 57 RBIs in 107 games at Double-A Montgomery before finishing the year at Triple-A Durham, hitting .255 with five home runs and 13 RBIs for the Bulls.

In the field, Beckham has shown steady improvement, raising his fielding percentage each of the last three seasons from .919 in 2009 to .949 in 2010 and .959 in 2011.

"Tim has really come a long way with his shortstop play since signing with us here," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "He can make every play on the field. He's not as flashy as Hak-Ju Lee, but he can make the routine play, the backhand, he can go up the middle. He's really, really improved on defense. He's never played himself out of that position."

Battling the high expectations forecast for him would seem to be a constant struggle for Beckham, only he doesn't see his career and where he's at that way.

"I haven't had to really adjust [to the expectations] at all," Beckham said. "I just go about my business like I've been doing since Day 1. I hadn't made any major adjustments at all. Just keep working. Keep going about my business like I said."

Beckham's temperament seems perfectly suited for baseball. He doesn't look in the rear-view mirror, nor does he look forward. Instead he stays in the present. When asked about him having a better idea about what he's doing at the plate, Beckham shrugs his shoulders, like the answer is obvious.

"That's just something that comes with repetition," Beckham said.

But the work -- and the repetition that entails, is what it's all about for Beckham.

"I wouldn't change anything for the world," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better organization to be with. And it's been a lot of fun."

Beckham is at his fourth Major League camp, which has allowed Maddon to observe his progression. And he's noticed more quiet when he's hitting.

"Offensively, he cut down on a lot of the movement he had at the plate," Beckham said. "More consistent with the bat head and he's started to work better at-bats."

Beckham does have expectations for himself and goals, which he keeps to himself. But he knows what lies ahead, even if he does live in the present. The Major Leagues now seem to be well within Beckham's reach. And when, and if, he gets there, he believes the experience will be that much better because of the journey he will have made.

"Oh yeah, I can't wait," 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.