Julio Borbon is staking his claim to the Rangers ' starting center field job.
This time he's prepared to keep it more than a few weeks.
Talk to the people that matter -- manager Ron Washington, outfield coach Gary Pettis and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh -- and each will tell you Borbon has been among the camp’s best players.
Borbon has moved ahead of Craig Gentry, and it has nothing to do with the sprained wrist Gentry suffered attempting a diving catch Tuesday.
Borbon has more overall talent than Gentry, and he’s finally maximizing it.
He's making all the routine plays and throwing to the right bases as a center fielder. And he's consistently taking the right approach to each at bat in spring training, which is why he's hitting .385 with four walks and just two strikeouts, thus far.
He had a single and a walk and scored a run Wednesday in a loss to Colorado on Wednesday.
“I’m finally playing my game the way I want to play,” Borbon said. “I’m not trying to do what I think the Rangers want me to do.
“I’m not trying to impress anybody or overdo anything. Sometimes, you work yourself to exhaustion trying to do everything you can - and then you can’t perform.”
Borbon’s task is to well enough to persuade the Rangers to keep Hamilton in left field and proven contributor David Murphy, a superior hitter to Borbon, on the bench.
The goal is to keep Hamilton in left field because he doesn't have to run nearly as much as he does in center field, theoretically lessening his injury risk. Of course, Hamilton jammed his heel chasing a ball in the corner Wednesday against Colorado and left in the second inning.
Borborn has hit well each of the past two springs, but he always entered the season with at least twice as many strikeouts as walks.
“He’s going through the process each at-bat and doing what it calls for him to do,” Coolbaugh said. “If he needs to bunt, he can do it. If he needs to turn on a ball and hit in the gap he can do that to.
“He’s taking advantage of all of his skills right now, and he’s been one of the best players we’ve had.”
Washington is pleased, but not surprised. When Borbon opted to spend two and one-half months playing winter ball, even though he struggled instead of coming home it impressed the manager.
“He fought through it. That showed me something,” Washington said pounding his fist over his heart. “A lot of guys leave winter ball early when they struggle, but he showed some mental toughness and stayed. That’s what this game is all about.
“Then he found his stroke at the end and really played well. When we showed up to spring training he was ready to play ball because he’d been playing all off-season. He started well and he hasn’t let up.”
The Rangers could platoon Borbon and Gentry in center field. Or they could move Hamilton, one of the best in the game, and play Murphy in left.
Or Borbon could earn the job.
His job is simply to make the club's decision as difficult as possible.