"It's cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on," Ludwick said Sunday. "I guess that means I'm somewhat of a decent guy."
The road ultimately took Ludwick back to Texas, with which he broke into the majors as a 23-year-old prospect in 2002. He's 36 now, intent on showing he still has something left in the tank and seasoned enough in the ways of baseball to understand that whatever he achieves will be strictly on merit.
After signing a minor league deal with the Rangers in early February, Ludwick is part of a crowded outfield picture in Surprise. While the Rangers are set in right field with Shin-Soo Choo and center with Leonys Martin, they can go in any number of directions after that.
Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua and Michael Choice are in the mix for the left-field job, and the Rangers are taking a look at Delino DeShields, who came over from Houston via the Rule 5 draft in December. DeShields, a real flyer, stole 101 bases in the minor leagues in 2012. He can play center field -- a valuable attribute given the Rangers' need for a backup to Martin -- but still needs to show he can hit at the big league level.
In addition, the Rangers brought in Ludwick and Nate Schierholtz, another veteran in camp on a minor league contract.
The Rangers are hoping for the 2012 version of Ludwick, who hit 26 homers and slugged .531 for the Reds three years ago. Things went south after that, when he missed most of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury and hit .244 with nine homers in 357 at-bats last season.
Ludwick and Schierholtz both made positive first impressions with two hits each in an intrasquad game at Surprise Stadium on Sunday. But it's likely the Texas outfield picture will take a while to come into focus. It's an open competition, and that was made plain to Ludwick in his early conversations with general manager Jon Daniels and manager Jeff Banister.
"I've always been up for a challenge," Ludwick said. "When you look at my career, it's never been an easy road. There have been a lot of injuries, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of different teams.
"They were 100 percent honest with me. There will be no free passes over here, and I understand that. I wasn't expecting a free pass. I'm here to work and see what I can do. Hopefully, it's enough. If it's not, I'll have to re-evaluate the situation and go from there."
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish dazzled his teammates with a scoreless inning in a Texas Rangers intrasquad game Sunday, then unveiled the latest addition to his repertoire: A much improved command of the English language.
Darvish, who has spoken almost exclusively through an interpreter for public consumption since signing with Texas out of his native Japan in 2012, achieved a first when he gave a six-minute interview in English with print reporters. Among other things, he tried to set the record straight about the premature and somewhat controversial ending to his 2014 season.
Darvish, a three-time All-Star, was 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA when he went down with what the Rangers called "mild elbow inflammation" in August. The Rangers were mired in last place at the time, and Darvish created a stir when he said he might have continued to pitch if the team was higher up in the standings. A subsequent MRI showed the injury was more serious than initially believed, and Darvish said doctors advised him to shut it down for the final seven weeks.
In hindsight, what response does Darvish have for media critics and fans who suggested that he quit on the team?
The 16 players are pitchers Lisalverto Bonilla, Alexander Claudio, Jon Edwards, Jerad Eickhoff, Spencer Patton, Anthony Ranuado and Nick Tepesch; catchers Jorge Alfaro and Tomas Telis; infielders Hanser Alberto, Rougned Odor and Jurickson Profar; and outfielders Michael Choice, Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua and Jake Smolinski.
The club now has 34 of the 41 players on the major league roster under contract for 2015.
Texas will open Cactus League play on March 4 against the Kansas City Royals at 1:05 p.m. MT at Surprise Stadium.
In a meeting before the first full-squad workout, Banister had a simple message.
"Why not us?" Banister asked the team.
The Rangers had an American League-high 95 losses last season, their most since 1985. But Banister said that is in the past.
Banister said everybody had the opportunity to reflect on that and understand what happened. He said it is now time to focus on this season, and working to be a playoff contender again.
"It's been the message from the very beginning," he said. "When I had the opportunity to interview, I watched a group of men that really truly ... they got punched in the mouth, but they're significant players. Good players. Great players."
With all the injuries last year, including losing slugger Prince Fielder and ace pitcher Yu Darvish for significant portions of the season, the Rangers hope last year was more of an anomaly.
During the nearly 30-minute meeting, Banister showed a video of highlights from last season.
"They've been told all last year and all winter what they didn't do, how bad they were and that, quite frankly, they just stunk," Banister said. "I'm watching video and I'm going, 'No, this is a good ballclub.' ... There were really good things that did happen. I wanted to show them that, reinforce that, so they can believe that they are a really good ballclub again."
In each of the four seasons before 2014, the Rangers won at least 90 games. They went to consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011, the only AL pennants in franchise history, then lost the first AL wild-card game in 2012 before losing in a 163rd-game wild-card tiebreaker in 2013.
Banister, who spent the last 29 years in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as a player and coach, was picked by the Rangers last October over two other finalists, former Rangers bench coach Tim Bogar and former Cleveland Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.
Bogar, who was 14-8 as interim manager after Ron Washington's sudden resignation for personal reasons last Sept. 5, is now with the AL West-rival Los Angeles Angels as a special assistant to general manager Jerry Dipoto. Cash became manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.
When the Rangers had their first full-squad workout, there were 64 players on the spring training roster. Along with the full 40-man roster, there were 23 non-roster invitees along with second baseman Jurickson Profar on the 60-day disabled list after shoulder surgery this week.
"I think we have a really nice mix of young athletic players with grizzled veteran players, and they all seem to share the same desire and the same wants," Banister said. "We've got to be able to match up our want-to with our know-how. And why not us?"
Darvish missed the final seven weeks last season because of right elbow inflammation.
"I was able to do some things I'd worked on in the bullpen," Darvish said through a translator. "My command was very good and there was power on the ball, but the batters were pretty much just standing in the batter's box, so it was hard to judge."
"I thought he was very sharp -- guys couldn't square up the ball," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "One thing about Yu, he doesn't overthrow. He was very consistent. Mission accomplished."
Darvish went 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA last season, his third with the Rangers since coming over from Japan. He is 39-25 with a 3.27 ERA in 83 major league starts, and led the American League with 277 strikeouts in 2013.
The right-hander was sidelined because of inflammation after his start Aug. 9 at Houston, when Darvish allowed six runs on nine hits and four walks in four innings. He didn't pitch after that with the Rangers, who had an AL-worst 95 losses last season.
"I am concentrating on my form and what I want to work on," Darvish said. "Since there are batters standing in the batter's box, all I wanted to do is what I had been doing in my two previous bullpens."
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar has undergone shoulder surgery and is expected to miss his second season in a row.
Team physician Dr. Keith Meister repaired a labrum tear in Profar's right shoulder Monday in Texas.
According to the team, Meister reported that surgery went well and nothing else needed to be surgically repaired in the shoulder.
After missing last season because of his shoulder, Profar had started throwing while getting an MRI every three weeks. The 22-year-old infielder was throwing at 105 feet, the same distance before a previous setback last September, when an MRI last week revealed the same muscle strain.
Once the team's top prospect, Profar was 19 when he homered in his first major league at-bat in 2012.
The extension is an amendment of the original contract Beltre signed on Jan. 5, 2011. In that deal, the first five years and $80 million were guaranteed with an option in 2016 that could have paid Beltre $16 million if he hit specific incentives in plate appearances last year and/or in 2015.
"It was an easy [process]," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It wasn't really a negotiation. We wanted to pick it up and he wanted to be here and it got done."
Under the amendment announced Monday, Beltre is guaranteed $16 million this year and $18 million in 2016, The Associated Press reported.
Texas could have voided the final year if Beltre failed to reach the incentives, but when Beltre arrived a few days early for camp on Sunday, general manager Jon Daniels said he didn't intend on letting the issue, which was a hot topic in camp, go that far.
"We would like Adrian to finish his career as a Ranger," Daniels said.
From his story:
The Rangers want him to stay a while. At least two years.
General manager Jon Daniels indicated the club could soon pick up an option on Beltre for 2016, at a salary of $16 million. Beltre could guarantee the option with 586 plate appearances this year, but Daniels hopes by acting now to avoid creating a subplot that would hang over the club all season.
“We’ll address that relatively soon,” Daniels said. “We don’t want that to be a distraction nor even a story as we go through the year.”
The Rangers’ 2014 season disintegrated quickly in an avalanche of injuries, from Derek Holland to Yu Darvish to Prince Fielder to Shin-Soo Choo, and it made sense for them to at least consider some trades of players not tethered to their future. For example, they spoke with other teams during the summer about Alex Rios, who became eligible for free agency last fall.
But when I’d ask various sources about the possibility of Beltre being marketed, I’d be shooed away from the idea. The Rangers view Beltre as a legacy player, an all-time great third baseman who could finish his career with Texas and perhaps have the Rangers’ cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
"It's not considered serious," Daniels said.
Kirkman said he reported the sorness after he was unable to get loose for his throwing session.
The 28-year-old is a non-roster invitee to camp after signing a minor league deal with the team in December when he ran out of options and became a free agent. Kirkman was brought into spring training with a chance to make the Rangers roster as a reliever.
"To make the club, it would be best for him to be out there and performing," Daniels said. "But we are early enough where if that's all it is, it's better to nip it in the bud now and give him a chance to compete."
In 36 games for Triple-A Round Rock, Kirkman went 5-5 with a 4.47 ERA. After getting called up to the Rangers, he pitched in 12 games, going 0-1 with a 1.59 ERA.
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Adrian Beltre arrived a few days early for Texas Rangers camp on Sunday and one of the topics discussed was his contract and its sixth-year option for the 2016 season.
Beltre signed a contract in January 2011 that guaranteed him $80 million over five years and could be worth $96 million over six.
The Rangers can void the final season if the slugger fails to have either 1,200 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015 combined, or 600 in 2015. He had 614 plate appearances in 2014, so the key number regarding the option is his total for the upcoming season.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he didn't intend to let the issue go that far.
"We'll address that relatively soon," Daniels said Sunday. "Our intent is for [plate appearances] to not be a factor. I don't want that to be a distraction or even a story going into the year."
Daniels said the team picking up the option sooner than later is a possibility and didn't balk at the thought of an extension when it was brought up.
"We would like Adrian to finish his career as a Ranger," Daniels said.
Beltre didn't hesitate to say he would like to remain with the Rangers, as long as the team doesn't decide to undergo a change in philosophy. The club is coming off a 67-95 season, the worst in the American League.
"Obviously, the main focus for me my last few years, or whatever I have left, is to win," said Beltre, who turns 36 in April. "If this team shows they're going to win while I'm here, then obviously I don't want to go anywhere else. If they go another way, then I don't think I have time to waste. I want to win a World Series and I want to be on a team thinking like that."
After a 75-minute session, which ended before noon, we learned Banister likes to run an efficient workout while completing the tasks at hand in as little time as possible.
Pitchers were divided into groups and rotated between four fields for different drills. The pitchers were also divided into two categories -- throwers and non-throwers. Guys who did not throw today either threw Thursday or Friday.
Also, there was no live batting practice. Instead, a group of pitchers simultaneously threw an average of 35 pitches to their own catcher at their own pace.
The quicker process was met with a positive response, especially given the beautiful near-80-degree, sunny day in Surprise.
“Sometimes change is good, and I really enjoyed it. It was new to me,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “I’ve only done it one way, but it was pretty neat, and I liked how we were able to condense everybody’s days.
“I think the guys appreciated that they were in and out. It was short and sweet. I thought it was a pretty good program.”
Day 2 of workouts for pitchers and catchers is scheduled for Sunday morning. The first full squad workout is next Thursday.
“Zero,” Maddux said.
That one word carries a lot of weight and should also lift any concern of lingering effects from the mild elbow inflammation that sent Darvish to the disables list last August before he was later shut down for the season as a precaution.
“I thought Yu threw very well. I liked what I saw,” Maddux said. “The ball was coming out clean. His command was good. The spin was good. He’s ahead of the field a little bit.”
Maddux kept tabs on Darvish, who has been throwing for a month, so he knew the Rangers ace was in good form entering camp. Despite that knowledge, Maddux admitted he was still curious and eager to see Darvish when he took the hill Saturday at Surprise Recreation Campus.
“Those are both good words,” Maddux said. “I was looking forward to seeing him throw.
A healthy Darvish is vital for the Rangers if they are to rebound from their injury-riddled 67-win season in 2014, and all early indications are that is the case.
Darvish finished 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings last season.
Banister donned the Rangers uniform for the first time, as he walked the fields at Surprise Recreation Campus for the first official workouts of his pitchers and catchers. It's a moment the first time MLB manager has anticipated since his hiring in October.
"For the first time, I get to see these guys in uniform and see them do baseball activity," Banister said. "Short of getting married and having two kids, this is probably the most exciting day of my life."
Saturday also marked the first time the Rangers could show their wares in front of their new boss. While the temptation is there to want to make a good first impression, especially by those who aren't guaranteed a roster spot or have a defined role, Banister said he told the team not to think that way.
"On Day 1, my message to them was to go at the pace that they know they need to go at," Banister said. "It's easy to be overamped and excited on day 1. This is an exciting day, but having the ability to temper your actions and stay in control of your effort is of paramount importance.
"It's not about evaluation of their skill or how they perform but where they are physically," he continued. "No one makes the club on Day 1, but you sure can knock yourself out if you get hurt."
Banister spent 29 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, including the last five as their bench coach. He also served as their minor league field coordinator for eight years during his career.