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Star-Telegram.com

Rangers confident with spring training on horizon

Posted Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012

By Drew Davison

ddavison@star-telegram.com

General manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington aren't worried about a World Series hangover for the Texas Rangers going into spring training. After all, the team has handled adversity well the past few seasons, from bankruptcy to ownership changes to off-field incidents.

"It wouldn't be a Rangers spring training without a little bit of crazy going on," Daniels said Thursday on a pre-spring training conference call.

The Rangers' pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to the team's Surprise, Ariz., complex Wednesday, followed by position players on Feb. 25, with the first full workout scheduled for Feb. 26.

It's been a busy off-season for the Rangers since falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in last year's World Series.

They signed closer Joe Nathan, and moved Neftali Feliz to the rotation. They saw their ace from last year's staff, C.J. Wilson, sign with the division-rival Los Angeles Angels. They made their own splash in the winter, though, by bidding a record posting fee and eventually signing Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. And, lately, they've taken care of their arbitration-eligible players and dealt with Josh Hamilton's second public relapse with alcohol.

The Rangers feel confident about their team going into spring training, and they are not expecting to make any more moves this off-season.

"I think we head into camp pretty strong," Washington said. "I think the key going in there is for everyone to stay healthy."

Daniels and Washington addressed several issues before the team heads for the Arizona sun.

Hamilton update

Jon Daniels said Josh Hamilton would not be disciplined by MLB or the team for his latest relapse.

"The MLB program is confidential," he said. "Obviously if there was a suspension it would be made public. That's not in play here."

Daniels said the team's No. 1 priority remains helping and supporting Hamilton, and not on a possible contract extension. There is no deadline, Daniels said, and talks have not resumed between the team and Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye.

As far as baseball, Washington said Hamilton will play both left field and center field in spring training.

Darvish-mania

The Rangers are anticipating more media than ever -- in the neighborhood of 175 credentialed members -- this spring training because of Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who has rock-star status in his homeland.

Ron Washington is just as excited as everybody else to watch Darvish pitch in the major leagues, but he will keep expectations in check.

"We're not looking for him to carry us," Washington said. "My main thing with him is for him to relax and be who he is."

Leadoff man

Ian Kinsler is expected to remain in the leadoff role for the Rangers.

Washington didn't give any more details about how he anticipates the lineup looking, but said he liked having Kinsler in the leadoff role.

"His intention is to spark this club, he wants to be there," Washington said.

Kinsler didn't have a great average (.255) last season, but posted a respectable .355 on-base percentage with 32 home runs and 30 steals.

Bench battle

As they did last year, the Rangers are expected to have a four-man bench. That will include a backup catcher (Yorvit Torrealba or Mike Napoli), fourth outfielder (David Murphy) and a utility infielder. Last year, the remaining spot was used for a center fielder as the Rangers went with a platoon system with Craig Gentry and Endy Chavez.

This year, the remaining spot seems to be up for grabs between Brad Hawpe and Conor Jackson, two players brought in on minor-league deals as insurance policies in case Mitch Moreland struggles at first base.

"We'll just have to get to spring training and see who fits best," Ron Washington said. "[We're looking for someone] who can do multiple things. That's what we're trying to get, the versatility."

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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