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Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Rangers get reacquainted with Trop

By Richard Durrett

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Rangers players will use Tuesday's workout session in part to get used to Tropicana Field.

It's a dome, so outfielders and infielders get a chance to see how the ball looks in the air with the roof in the background and how the infield dirt, which is fast, reacts on ground balls.

"It's a different place," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "The ground balls get to you quicker and you have to get used to that and moving from side to side to get there and react right. As a ground ball hitter, maybe that will help me. Maybe some of those balls get through."

The Rangers spent time Monday taking ground balls and fielding fly balls in the outfield as a way of running around the turf and seeing how the ball reacted in different situations.

"In other parks, you can see the ball off the bat, take your eye off slightly to run to a spot and then find it again," said outfielder David Murphy, who hopes to be ready to play in this series with his strained groin. "Here, you better not take your eye off the ball. It's tough to find. So you have to locate it and stick with it."

Nelson Cruz said he was particularly glad to have the extra days at Tropicana Field since he didn't play in the August series here.

The Rangers players were also told of a rules change on Monday. Any ball that strikes the upper rings of catwalks (A and B rings) is a dead ball and the pitch won't count. Players used to have to play balls off of that ring, but after the Twins got a run off the Rays in a tie game in the ninth by hitting one of the rings in August, MLB decided to change the rule before the playoffs.

None of that really impacts the club's preparation. For the infielders, it's a chance to get used to the bounces.

"There turf to dirt makes the ball quick and creates different hops," Michael Young said. "We'll get some chances to see a few of those."

But most of the Rangers agreed that the more important reason to come to Tampa early was to get settled in and in the right mindset for the club's first postseason series in 11 years.

"It's just to get us down here, get us going," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "The latst thing you want to do is get here and feel rushed. So have fun on Monday and then lock in on Tuesday, have meetings, get ready to go. There's a balance.

"We just played in Toronto a little bit ago, so I don't think it's that big a deal. It's baseabll. It comes down to who can pitch and who can hit. There's maybe a little bit more of a homefield advantage in a place like this than an outfield stadium with normal grass, but you can't use that as an excuse."

Second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was on the DL when the Rangers played the Rays in St. Pete, but has played many games at Tropicana Field, agreed.

"It's nice to have the two days to catch grounders and run around on it, but mostly everyone has played on it before. You go to Toronto, you come here, you know what to expect. But it makes the adjustment a little bit easier when you have a couple of days. We can get some workouts in, have dinner and relax and then be ready to go Wednesday."

The Rangers are scheduled to work out at 2 p.m. Dallas time. They worked out for about 90 minutes on Monday, which included a session of pitchers' fielding practice and some running drills on the bases to go along with batting practice.