PEORIA, Ariz. — Jeff Baker was traded twice in a 26-day span last August and knows roster spots are never guaranteed. He wasn’t assuming he had a spot on the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster early Monday morning even though he is batting .423 this spring.“Until you hear the national anthem being played, wherever you are is where you are,” Baker said. “I just keep my head down and go about my business. They’ll make the decisions and we’ll go from there.”Shortly after saying that, manager Ron Washington informed Baker that he would be hearing the national anthem at Minute Maid Park in person on Sunday night. Baker has secured a spot on the 25-man roster, Washington said.It wasn’t a shocking development, of course, with how well Baker has played this spring. Along with his high average, Baker can play both corner infield and outfield positions, along with second base.He also provides a right-handed bat off the bench and will be a nice option for Washington to use against left-handed pitchers. Baker has a career .296 average with 25 home runs and 102 RBIs against lefties.“We haven’t had that veteran presence [off the bench] that can make a difference,” Washington said. “That’s a role he’s played and he knows how to play it. He knows how to stay ready. And what I like about him is he’s passing his experience on to some of our young kids. He’s always holding court with them.”Washington compared Baker’s presence to that of what the Rangers had when veteran Omar Vizquel was the utility infielder in 2009.The Rangers had to make a decision on Baker by Tuesday because he could have opted out of his contract had he not been on the 25-man roster. The 31-year-old signed a minor league contract in late January.Signs of promiseTen days ago, Lance Berkman was batting .167 in Cactus League games but said he felt good at the plate and the results would eventually come. They have.Berkman has seen his average rise to .275 this spring, and he belted his second homer on Sunday. He has nine RBIs, a .415 on-base percentage and has shown no signs that his surgically repaired right knee is holding him back.All of that is nice to see, but Ron Washington isn’t surprised by his progress.“We never doubted that he still had it,” Washington said. “We didn’t bring him up in here hoping he still had it. We were concerned about his knee, but we were never concerned about what he offers. Yes, I am pleased that he’s getting his game going but I’m not shocked.”Fresh startBrad Mills wasn’t expecting to be switching camps this late in spring, but moved from the Angels’ facility in Tempe to the Rangers’ in Surprise on Monday. The Rangers claimed the 28-year-old left-hander off outright waivers Sunday.“I don’t know how all of this stuff works, but kind of surprised and excited,” Mills said. “It’s always good when someone wants you, so that’s how I look at it. If they didn’t want me, they wouldn’t have grabbed me.”Mills has spent parts of the last four seasons in the majors with the Blue Jays and Angels, posting a 7.76 ERA over 15 games, including 10 starts. If he doesn’t make the team, the Rangers would have to get Mills back through waivers to keep him in the organization.Briefly• Closer Joe Nathan struck out all three batters he faced in a perfect inning of relief in a minor league game against the Royals on Monday. Left-handed relief candidate Nate Robertson also had a perfect inning of relief, while right-handed relief candidate Cory Burns had a scoreless inning, scattering two hits.• Tuesday’s Rangers-White Sox game will be broadcast on MLB Network in the Texas market. Matt Harrison starts for the Rangers, while Chris Sale will go for the White Sox.• Harrison is scheduled to throw four innings and 65 pitches Tuesday, his final start before the season opener.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison