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It's been sunny spring for Julio Borbon

3/14/2011

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Manager Ron Washington punctuated a paragraph of praise about Julio Borbon’s offensive performance this spring by bringing up the center fielder’s defensive problems.

Borbon ranks among Cactus League leaders with a .387 average, but he has three errors. That includes a routine fly ball that he botched with the bases loaded and two outs in Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco Giants.

“Gotta catch those balls, that’s for sure,” Washington said.

Borbon has a simple explanation for what went wrong: He lost the ball in the sun at the last second. The same thing happened on one of his other errors this spring.

“The sun here is just trouble,” Borbon said. “It’s something you’ve got to battle with. Hopefully, they understand that it’s something you don’t have to deal with in the season.”

The speedy Borbon, 25, believes he can be trouble for opponents as the Texas’ every-day center fielder, which would allow the Rangers to reduce the wear and tear on Josh Hamilton by playing him in left field. That was also the plan last spring, but that plan changed after Borbon hit .191 in the first month of the season.

But Borbon finished the season strong as a part-time player, ending up with a .276 averaged after hitting .309 in the last month of the season. He attributes the turnaround to regaining his confidence, which has carried over into the spring.

Borbon is one of the best bunters in the big leagues. He tied the Angels’ Erick Aybar to lead the majors with 17 bunt hits last season and laid down a beauty inches inside the third-base line to get on base Sunday against the Giants. He intends to continue to bunt at least once every 10 at-bats, but he’s determined to be aggressive at the plate. His other two hits Sunday were sharp line drives up the middle.

“It’s just believing in myself and knowing I can do it. That’s it,” Borbon said. “Nothing changed approach-wise. Once I got going, I was able to feel really comfortable with myself at the plate.”

The question now is whether Washington will feel comfortable sending Borbon to center field on a daily basis.