Monday, March 11, 2013
Notes: Jeff Baker's play isn't going unnoticed
By Ron Matejko
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jeff Baker is different than the typical player seeking to earn a major league roster spot out of spring training. Usually players do their best to stand out and get noticed, but Baker takes the opposite approach.
"As a utility guy you kind of don't want to stand out. You don't want to get noticed," said Baker, who went 1-for-2 on Monday. "Especially during the season when you're playing. If they don't notice you and you get a few hits, play well on defense and the team does well, then that's a bonus. You're just trying to give a guy a day off."
While at-bats and playing time are unpredictable for a utility player, Baker has seen regular time in the Rangers' lineup during the spring as he tries to earn a bench spot. He may be trying to stay under the radar, but his performance at the plate of late is hard not to notice.
Baker has been on a tear for nearly two weeks, making the most of the opportunity afforded him so far. He went into Monday's action second in the Cactus League with a .500 batting average and ranked among the top three in hits (15), OBP (.531) and runs (9).
An out during his third at-bat Sunday ended a streak of reaching base in eight consecutive plate appearances (seven hits, one walk).
Even during spring training, a performance like this will attract attention.
"You always want to see some success from your hard work and preparation you put in," Baker said. "At the same time, I view it as just getting ready for the season. When you are a bench guy and a utility guy you kind of relish spring training because you do get a chance to play every day."
The six-year MLB veteran has carved out a nice career because of his versatility, as he can play five positions: first, second, third, left field and right field. Baker wouldn't see much time at third if he makes the team, but would see time at the other positions.
During the last few years, Baker played mostly when there was a platoon against a lefty, although he has assaulted pitching from both sides so far this spring.
"It's just nice and refreshing to see a veteran utility guy perform the way Baker is performing," Washington said.
Baker also played shortstop and center field during spring training earlier in his career, leaving only catcher and pitcher left to add to his resume, although he does have his eyes set on eventually taking the mound.
"I still really want to pitch," said Baker, who carries four gloves with him. "It's one of those things that stinks because, obviously, if I pitch, the team is getting beat pretty good.
"I was kidding around last year in Chicago with our pitching coach about that situation," Baker said. "Then sure enough, I get traded and two weeks later the utility guy was on the mound."
Other game notes:
RHP Derek Lowe is scheduled to throw live batting practice Tuesday after tossing a bullpen session Sunday. Lowe is scheduled to see his first game action Friday.
3B Adrian Beltre said he will not be joining the Dominican Republic team for the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Beltre said he spoke to their GM earlier in spring training while rehabbing a sore calf about coming aboard after playing a few spring games with the Rangers. He was placed on their provisional roster but was unsure if he could join the team at this stage unless he was replacing an injured player.
SS Elvis Andrus could rejoin his Rangers teammates in camp Tuesday.
Rangers in WBC update: Three Texas players advanced in the World Baseball Classic: Derek Holland (USA), Nelson Cruz and Leury Garcia (Dominican Republic). Holland threw five innings, allowing two runs and striking out four in Team USA's 9-4 victory against Canada in an elimination game Sunday.
Texas will play a 'B' game Tuesday at 10 a.m. against the Kansas City Royals in Surprise.
Former Rangers Pete O'Brien and Jose Guzman are in camp this week to assist the coaching staff.