SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A lot of things have changed for Julio Borbon in the last year. He's got another year of experience, has learned how to deal with slumps and continued to improve his overall game.
But there's one thing about this spring training that will feel like last year in Surprise: Borbon will be spending a bunch of his time on defense.
Manager Ron Washington said that Borbon heads into camp as the club's starting center fielder, just as he was in 2010 at spring training. So despite the fact that David Murphy started in left field with Josh Hamilton in center and Nelson Cruz in right for most of the playoffs, Borbon gets the nod this time around with Murphy as the "fourth outfielder."
"I know they have a lot of trust and understanding in the things I was learning as a first-year guy," Borbon said. "I definitely can take that and continue to get better. I think that’s the way they see it rather than me not playing in the playoffs."
Last season was Borbon's first full campaign in the majors. He played in 137 games and rebounded from a rough start. Borbon started 2010 as the leadoff hitter, but he hit just .191 in April and had a .258 on-base percentage with one stolen base from the leadoff spot. So the Rangers shifted him to No. 9 in the order before the first month was over. Borbon stayed there for most of the season and his offense got much better. He hit .291 and had a .320 on-base percentage with 14 stolen bases.
Borbon managed to end up hitting .276 for the season.
"A lot of guys wouldn't have been able to battle back like that," oufield coach Gary Pettis said.
But more than the offense, the Rangers saw some steady improvement defensively. Borbon arrived at spring training in 2010 needing to get used to the mechanics of throwing the ball correctly and learning how to get proper backspin on it. He worked with Pettis and had several throwing sessions with David Murphy. He continued that work into the season.
"The way that he takes the ball out of his glove and the way he can get the arm action going is like a true outfielder," Pettis said. "He can get on top of the baseall now. He can throw with four seams, like you tell a pitcher to do. His accuracy has improved. It’s all confidence.
"When you’re not confident about doing something, you really don’t want to do it unless you have to. Now he wants to throw. There was time he’d back off because he knew he had a problem. Now he’s confident."
Borbon said the work he put in during the 2010 season and in the offseason in winter ball has helped him tremendously.
"It paid off, it sure paid off," Borbon said. "I was really glad to see and be able to contribute in center and play some good defense. It’s still my main focus. I know that’s the thing I have to get up to par with my offense. I'm very confident with my offense and the things I can do. It's just a matter of bringing that defense and mechanics too."