Texas Rangers manager has no qualms on maligned off-season

02/11/2013 11:15 PM

03/24/2013 1:08 AM

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The first day of spring training for Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington included some time in the gym and some time in his golf cart observing the day's activities at the Surprise Recreation Campus.

Day One was a chilly one, too. But dreary, chilly Monday morning had given way to sunshine by the time Washington addressed the media in his annual pre-camp chat.

An omen? Maybe. Washington doesn't seem the least bit concerned about what many are considering a less-than-spectacular off-season. Many believe it was one of the worst in baseball.

"There's no backing down, there's no lack of our attitude, no lack of commitment to what we expect, and we'll go into this spring with that attitude and that commitment," Washington said. "The only opinion that matters is how we feel about each other in this clubhouse, and I can tell you we feel pretty good about each other in this clubhouse."

What areas will you emphasize Wednesday during the first workout for pitchers and catchers? The same areas I've always emphasized -- pitchers' fielding practice, fielding their positions, throwing to bags, the fundamentals. We're going to continue to hit that. The baseball part will take care of itself as they get into shape and begin to understand what they can and can't do right now. We're going to make sure we take care of little things.

They certainly were much better [in 2012], but it's just like anything else. It's got to become a routine where it's something we put emphasis on constantly. It's part of their game besides trying to throw strikes and get hitters out. Part of their game is being able to field their positions and throw to bags. We'll certainly continue to drill that into them.

What do you expect from Yu Darvish in his second spring camp? I expect it to be a total turnaround because now he knows what we do and how we do it. I think there won't be any surprises. We have a better grasp of what he likes to do. We incorporate what he likes and what we like, and I think it will be a smoother transition going into the spring.

When you look at the bullpen, how many pitchers have already secured a spot on the Opening Day roster? Right now, I think Joe Nathan is certainly guaranteed [of his role as closer], and everything else is wide open. We've got Robbie Ross getting the opportunity to start, and we've just got to wait and see to see where that goes. If, for some reason, that doesn't work out, we know he's got a spot in the bullpen.

We're not anointing anyone. As of right now, we've got some pieces we can do some things with. We've got to wait until spring training starts to see how it rounds itself into shape.

Are Ross' chances to be a starter related to the ability to find quality left-handers to fill his void in the bullpen? No. We're giving Ross a full opportunity to take a starting job, and then we'll adjust to it as we get deeper into spring. If there are any pieces we have to go out there and look for, we'll certainly look for.

How do you see the race for the fifth spot in the rotation? Wide open. You always like competition, so it's wide open. We have some good arms, and now it's just a matter of them being able to mentally focus down and see where it goes.

Nelson Cruz could be facing a 50-game suspension for banned substances. How do you see that situation entering spring? I have no comment on the Nelson Cruz situation right now. As far as I know right now, he's my right fielder.

What are your feelings on center field? Right now, it's [Julio] Borbon, [Leonys] Martin and [Craig] Gentry. We're going to put them all out there, give them playing time and see how it goes.

How has Martin developed? He still needs to improve on his base running. We've got to make sure that we make him understand situations out there on the defensive end -- throwing to the right bag, hitting the cut-off man, replaying things before they happen. I do believe that he has come a long way. He had an opportunity to be up here and see how the big leagues work. Now he's going to get a chance to see where his ability takes him and us.

Do you consider Mitch Moreland to be the everyday first baseman against right- and left-handed pitchers? He's going to get a chance this spring to face them all. We'll see where it goes. David Murphy got that chance last year, facing them all, and did a good job at it. I just want Mitch to come in, stay healthy, work and improve. If he stays healthy, works and improves, he'll answer that question himself.

Do you have a plan to take it easy on Lance Berkman this spring? When he gets in, I'm going to talk to him and find out every day how he's feeling and talk to him about the different spots he feels comfortable playing and round him into shape at his pace this spring. The key for him is being ready for April, not March. Not trying to prove anything to us. We know what he can do. I'll just get him at at-bats as he feels he needs them and I feel he needs them.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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