ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A wise man, according to Elvis Presley, once said that only fools rush in.
Another Elvis, Elvis Andrus, wasn't foolish his first two seasons in the major leagues when he was hurried from Double A into a full-time job. If anything, the Texas Rangers' shortstop had baseball instincts that were advanced beyond his years when he broke in at age 20.
He was simply inexperienced, and needed to learn how to grind through a season. It's hard enough to get through 162 games physically, but the mental toll of a season might be more difficult.
A year ago, his mind was mush. His legs were sore. A bad September at the plate made everything else seem worse. Yet, when the postseason bell rang, he was a ball of energy.
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Andrus returned to the Rangers' lineup Monday after a two-day break to freshen up for another postseason run. The bell rings again Friday, and a better prepared Andrus is looking to improve on what he did last year.
"My body is going to feel like Opening Day," said Andrus, now a seasoned 23-year-old. "It's going to be a lot of energy, a lot of adrenaline. I love to play like that.
"I did a lot last year. I'm not going to settle for that. I hope to enjoy this year the same way, and maybe even a bit better. I have some experience in the postseason to turn it up and do it right away."
Whatever postseason success he encounters has roots in the off-season when he was given a conditioning program designed to strengthen his legs.
But he also learned how to take better care of himself, including better choices at the dinner table and more of an understanding as to when he should listen to his body rather than push, push, push.
The mental aspect has been aided by a good final month. He entered Monday hitting .312 in September with two of his five homers and 11 of his 60 RBIs.
Andrus hit only .160 last year in September.
"There's a lot of different things," he said. "But I've finally hit in September. At this point, everyone's tired, but when you're playing well, that helps you mentally."
Said manager Ron Washington: "At 21, you can bounce back, but when you are playing for something, you have to figure out what's important. He's sleeping more. He's eating better. He's learned how to take care of his body better."
Down the stretch, without a cushion for regulars to rest, Andrus didn't lag behind. He started 30 straight games until the Rangers clinched the American League West on Friday night.
He was given the weekend off, and said he is ready to go as long as the Rangers' playoff run goes. If he plays all three games against the Angels in the season-ending series, he would hit 150 games played.
That would be two more than last year.
"He was pretty worn out last year," said second baseman Ian Kinsler, Andrus' double-play partner. "He definitely understands himself more. He knows what kind of player he is. He's just gradually learning how to make things easier on himself."
Andrus still has some gas in reserve when he needs it, a byproduct his relative youth. But he hasn't needed it as often this season, either physically or mentally.
"Last year was great to experience how to prepare myself," Andrus said. "Over the years, you learn. Right now, I feel great."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760