Julio Borbon has one last chance with the Rangers

02/14/2013 4:24 PM

03/24/2013 1:08 AM

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Not many players on the Texas Rangers' spring roster have been coming to the Surprise Recreation Campus as long as Julio Borbon has.

Ian Kinsler is the clubhouse leader, so to speak, with 10 since making his spring debut in 2004. Colby Lewis was part of the first two camps in the desert in 2003 and 2004, but didn't return again until 2010.

Borbon debuted in 2007 after the Rangers selected him with the 35th overall pick in the June draft. He was in big-league camp the next spring, along with Elvis Andrus.

But this spring could be Borbon's last with the Rangers, and he knows it.

He is out of options, meaning that the Rangers can't send him to the minor leagues without exposing him to the waiver wire.

He has fallen to third on the center-field depth chart behind Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin after logging exactly zero major-league at-bats in 2012.

Borbon, the one-time center fielder of the future, is a man staring at a future in another organization unless he can convince club brass that he belongs in the majors once again.

"There's no telling or predicting anything at this point other than just performing," said Borbon, who arrived two days ahead of the Rangers' first full-squad workout. "Overall, I've had a good run at spring training, if you look at my history. I'm ready to go. All I want is a fair shot."

Borbon was the Opening Day starter in 2010 and 2011, seasons in which the Rangers eventually wound up playing in the World Series. But he gave way to Josh Hamilton in center field for the 2010 playoff run, and was on thin ice after a shaky showing the next spring.

Manager Ron Washington removed Borbon from a game late in the Cactus League season because, according to Washington, Borbon wasn't in the on-deck circle quickly enough.

Washington called the situation "a teachable moment," one designed to make sure Borbon understood that his focus can never lapse during game.

The one thing Borbon can't do is let distractions get the better of him.

"If he can stay consistent throughout, he can make it pretty tough," Washington said. "Focus, and focus is a whole spring training and a whole season."

Borbon seems to have moved on from the 2011 season. He hit .270 (24-for-89) and was riding a 10-game hitting streak when he injured a hamstring May 13.

He went on the disabled list the next day and was activated June 2, but rather than rejoin the Rangers' lineup, he was sent to Triple A Round Rock.

Borbon hasn't been back since, despite hitting .304 with 10 homers last year at Round Rock.

"It's probably one of the toughest things to swallow," Borbon said. "I don't think I'd ever heard of somebody getting sent down because of a .270 average."

Washington has said that center field is wide open this spring, though a platoon of Gentry and Martin seems the likely outcome. Each has a better arm than Borbon, and Martin has more left-handed pop at the plate.

Borbon basically has to be flawless to make the team.

Because his arm isn't strong, he can't miss the cutoff man and he needs to always throw to the right base.

One of the fastest players in camp, Borbon can't get picked off and needs to be able to execute at the plate. Those were issues last spring.

Borbon spent the off-season trying something new to get ready for his last gasp. He spent almost all winter in California working out at a Scott Boras training facility, and didn't play winter ball for the first time.

The result was a more muscular frame and a rested mind.

The payoff is pending, but the Rangers' former center fielder of the future isn't sweating his future.

"I'm not worried," Borbon said. "I think I'm in a good position this year as far as what I'm going into. I know it's in my hands, not anybody else's. I just have to come out and play."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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