Ron Washington sets middle of order

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The first full squad workouts haven't even begun for the Texas Rangers, but manager Ron Washington has the middle of his lineup in place and he doesn't plan to alter it, barring injuries.

That includes first baseman Prince Fielder, who arrived at camp Wednesday, batting third and third baseman Adrian Beltre staying in the cleanup spot.

"I'm set in stone with that," Washington said, as he spoke with a group of beat writers in a dugout on the back fields prior to workouts. "You're not going to change my mind moving Prince out of the third hole."

Washington's reasoning for putting Fielder ahead of Beltre has as much to do with Beltre as it does Fielder.

"I think Adrian is more productive for me in the years I've been here with him in the fourth hole," Washington said. "Prince Fielder, in his career, he's always been the protector. Now I'm going to make him the protectee."

Washington says that will force teams to "pick their poison."

"Either they go after Prince or they pitch around Prince and have to deal with Beltre," Washington said. "Having those two guys in the middle of the lineup and not forgetting Elvis (Andrus) and (Shin-Soo) Choo before those guys, if we stay healthy, we're going to be fine.

"I just want Prince to be Prince. I don't want him to come here and try to think he's got to take us on his shoulders. I just want him to do what he does and everyone else to do what they do and it will work out."

Beltre hit cleanup for most of the 2013 season and batted .315 with 30 homers and 92 RBIs. He was the club's most productive offensive player and finished seventh in AL MVP voting. The most at-bats for Beltre in his career have come as the cleanup hitter and he has a .299 batting average and .871 OPS at that spot. He's hit .281 in his career in the 3-hole. But since he's been in Texas, Beltre has had just 54 plate appearances in the 3-hole and hit just .196.

"I'm just not moving Beltre out of the fourth hole," Washington said.

Washington isn't concerned about having right-handed hitters in Beltre and Alex Rios back to back in the order late in games, where an opposing manager could use a right-handed pitcher.

"Those guys are pros," Washington said. "They've faced all different pitchers with different styles all their career. They are established players -- very good established players."