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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Skipper ready to stress fundamentals

By Richard Durrett

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Technically, today is the day that pitchers and catchers must report with the first official workout scheduled for Wednesday. But for most of the players and coaches, that date is merely a guide. Just about all of them were at camp by Monday, including manager Ron Washington.

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The Rangers are arriving in Surprise, Ariz., for spring training and Ben and Skin discuss what to expect from the team this season.

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After a disappointing finish to the 2012 season, the skipper is ready to move forward and get his team ready for another campaign in the AL West. So what will he focus on as workouts begin?

“The same areas I’ve always emphasized – pitchers fielding practice (PFP), fielding their positions, throwing to bags, the fundamentals," Washington said. "We’re going to continue to hit that. The baseball part will take care of itself as they get into shape and begin to understand what they can and can’t do right now. We’re going to make sure we take care of little things.”

A few other things from Washington's first chat with the media on Monday afternoon:

Ron Washington
Rangers manager Ron Washington wants to make sure his team takes care of the little things.
* He's not listening to any opinions from critics outside the organization in regards to missing out on key players this offseason (such as Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton).

"That’s why you believe what’s inside your clubhouse," Washington said. "There’s no backing down, there’s no lack of our attitude, no lack of commitment to what we expect and we’ll go into this spring with that attitude and that commitment.

"We believe we can play baseball and that’s exactly what we’ll do. The game is won in between the lines, not in the polls, but you can’t stop opinions. But the only opinion that matters is how we feel about each other in this clubhouse, and I can tell you we feel pretty good about each other in this clubhouse."

* The bullpen is wide open, outside of closer Joe Nathan and veteran Jason Frasor. It appears Josh Lindblom is also in good position to grab a spot, according to Washington.

"We’ve got Robbie Ross getting the opportunity to start and we’ve just got to wait and see to see where that goes," Washington said. "If for some reason that doesn’t work out, we know he’s got a spot in the bullpen. We’ve got Michael Kirkman who showed some improvement last year and hopefully he can continue on. We’ve got (Tanner) Scheppers who showed some flashes. We’ve got to get some consistency out of him. It’s open.

Robbie Ross
Robbie Ross will get a shot at the rotation, but there is a spot waiting for him in the bullpen if starting doesn't work out.
"We’re not anointing anyone. As of right now, we’ve got some pieces we can do some things with. We’ve got to wait until spring training starts to see how it rounds itself into shape."

* Washington said Ross will get a full shot at the starting job and won't be hindered from earning it just because the club could use a lefty in the bullpen.

* He's going to watch Lance Berkman carefully this spring. The manager doesn't expect Berkman to play any outfield and perhaps he might play some at first base, but for the most part he'll watch his knees and make sure he gets his at-bats. Berkman is the club's primary designated hitter in 2013.

* Washington wants Mitch Moreland to focus on "spraying the ball" to left-center and right-center.

"When he gets in pull mode, he gets in trouble," Washington said. "In his rookie year he was able to master hitting the ball to the opposite field. He's just got to get back to doing what he does, and that's hitting it where it's pitched. He's a line-drive hitter. He makes tremendous contact."

* If it ends up that Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry are about equal in spring training, Washington is fine playing both of them.

"We all would like to have a guy that you can pencil in every day, but if that's not the case here, we won't have any problem with a platoon," Washington said. "But right now, on Feb. 11, we'll let them come in and play and see what happens, and then we'll cross that bridge as we get further along in spring training. But you'd always like to have players you can depend on daily."