Rangers’ Mitch Moreland preparing for utility role

Posted Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Mitch Moreland didn’t know what to expect after the Texas Rangers acquired Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers. And he really still doesn’t.

Moreland admitted his 2014 destination could change by Opening Day, but for now he’s preparing himself for a utility-type role with the Rangers next season.

“The way it’s gone, I’m still not sure [where I’ll be],” said Moreland, making an appearance at the Rangers’ winter caravan stop Sunday afternoon.

“They’ve definitely made a lot of moves and been very active this off-season. From what I know right now, I’m still here and still a Texas Ranger, and happy to be here and looking forward to the season.”

Rangers officials have made no indications of wanting to part ways with the 28-year-old Moreland since the Fielder trade, saying they still believe Moreland can be a valuable piece to the club. That message has apparently been sent to other teams, too.

“Texas, at this point, is not willing to talk about [trading] Moreland,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week.

The only certainty is that Fielder is going into next season as the Rangers’ everyday first baseman, a job that Moreland had going into last season. But Moreland didn’t do enough to lock down the job permanently.

He started the season strong and batted .300 with eight home runs and 16 RBIs in 28 games in May. His season was derailed by a right hamstring strain that sidelined him in early June and he never bounced back.

Moreland batted .183 in the second-half and found himself in a platoon situation down the stretch. He described last year (.232, 23 home runs, 60 RBIs) as one of “ups and downs.”

“I’m going to try to learn from it and try to get better from it,” Moreland said. “You try to build on the positives and fix the negatives as best you can. I want to be more consistent.”

Moreland also wants to enjoy playing the game more. Although it’s not necessarily a bad thing, some within the organization believe Moreland tries too hard and wants to succeed so badly that it sometimes has a negative effect.

Moreland said that’s a fair criticism, but it’s also the mindset that helped him go from a 17th-round draft pick in 2007 to a big leaguer by 2010.

“I had to work to get here,” Moreland said. “At times, I probably go to the extreme with that. It’s something I’ve worked on this off-season — more quality than quantity when I’m going about my business.”

His business now includes getting ready for a versatile role. Outside of first base, Moreland has played right field in the big leagues, and he also has experience in left field from his college days.

Moreland is no stranger to playing different positions on different days, either. He did it several times in the minor leagues with himself, Justin Smoak and Chris Davis all getting time at first base.

“With a little bit of work, I can get back out there and hopefully pick it up quick,” Moreland said. “I’m just going to try to go out and prepare for anything and everything.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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