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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: March 13, 10:58 AM ET
Jurickson Profar has tools to succeed

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Another round of batting practice had just been completed on a cool, picturesque Arizona morning when Jurickson Profar scooped up his bat and glove and headed toward the Texas Rangers' clubhouse.

Suddenly, Ron Washington called Profar to the dugout.

Jurickson Profar
Jurickson Profar was on the receiving end of some tough love from Ron Washington after not running out a grounder.

For five minutes, between long drags on a Winston, the old-school manager spoke to the 20-year-old phenom about the importance of respecting the game.

Most of the talk revolved around Profar's failure to sprint to first base after a routine ground ball in a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics. Washington was managing another split-squad game down the road but had heard about Profar's mistake. It was the third time this spring it had happened.

"I wanted to let him know it was unacceptable," Washington said. "It's not the way the Texas Rangers play baseball.

"The kid has a lot of potential, but he hasn't done it in the big leagues yet. He was in Double-A ball last season. I wanted to make sure he hasn't been reading his press clippings."

This is not a unique approach for Washington. He's hardest on those youngsters with the most talent.

All you have to do is ask Elvis Andrus, who arrived in the big leagues at 20. Or Derek Holland, who joined the Rangers at 22, just three years removed from Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. Both will tell you how much Washington has demanded from them, and still demands from them daily.

Remember when Washington benched Andrus in 2011 after a lazy throw resulted in an error against the Twins? How many times has he cussed out Holland on the mound for losing focus? Who will ever forget the pep talk and paternal love tap he delivered to Holland before Game 4 of the 2011 World Series?

"He talked to me because he wants me to do the right things," Profar said. "If he didn't, then it would mean he didn't care about me. He's supposed to get on me.

"Elvis warned me. He said Wash used to get on him all of the time."

That attitude, you see, is why the Rangers are so high on Profar.

Everyone can see the abundance of talent. All you have to do is watch the effortless way he handles ground balls at shortstop or second. That's if you don't get seduced by the way he swings the bat and attacks pitches left over the plate.

Understand, Profar is only going to get better. After all, we're talking about a dude who hit .281 with 14 homers, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 126 Double-A games last season.

But it's Profar's intangibles that excite the front office. They see a kid with an easy smile and the ability to already move freely throughout every corner of the clubhouse. More than once in the past week, Profar and Yu Darvish have been yucking it up in the clubhouse.

The Rangers see a player yearning to improve each day, whether it's through getting a tip from Adrian Beltre or some insight from 74-year-old bench coach Jackie Moore.

"I'm learning every day from my teammates and the game," Profar said. "I'm learning about different situations every day."

The reality is Profar will probably start the season in Triple-A. It seems ludicrous considering the uproar caused throughout the fan base last season when Washington chose to play a struggling Michael Young ahead of Profar in September.

But there's no place for Profar right now since the Rangers are blessed with All-Stars at second base and shortstop.

The Rangers had discussed moving second baseman Ian Kinsler to first base, but he requested before signing his new contract that they not ask him to move in the first year of his new deal. When Kinsler declined, the Rangers acquiesced.

The Rangers are comfortable with Profar being a backup at both middle infield spots, but only if they can get him 350 at-bats or about 70 games this season. That doesn't seem possible, so none of us should be shocked when Profar starts the season in Round Rock.

Whenever his time comes to play regularly in the big leagues, Profar will be ready.

He'll make sure of it. So will Washington.