The 2014 Texas Rangers are Elvis Andrus’ team, or so he has read and heard from various media outlets.
Though only 25, the shortstop has more tenure with the club than any other position player, and the relatively soft-spoken Matt Harrison is the only player with more Rangers time than Andrus.
Andrus, though, isn’t buying it.
“It’s up to everybody,” he said Friday. “We’re a team. It’s not about one guy.”
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However, Andrus will soon learn, if he hasn’t already, that he will be the player the media seeks out during good times and bad, the one who is expected to lead, the one who is expected to bring together chemistry in the clubhouse.
It’s a different clubhouse than the one he grew up in, and chemistry is often cited as a reason why Andrus felt so comfortable as a rookie in 2009.
But so much has changed since then and especially in the past two seasons that manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels have both spoken this week about the importance of trimming the spring roster and giving the players who will impact the team a chance to bond before Opening Day.
Cuts are coming, likely Monday or Tuesday, to kick-start the process of building the kind of team chemistry the Rangers believed has helped them succeed in the recent past.
It’s not an overnight reaction.
“Chemistry is very important. But you can’t start to judge the chemistry of the club until you start playing baseball,” Washington said. “Every day counts. You begin to find out who you can count on and who you can’t count on. That’s when chemistry begins to develop.
“I’m not judging it right now because we’re in spring training. I’m talking about when you get a group together, and they understand who are the guys who are going to be on the field. Then you see how they intermingle with each other and how they interact.”
The signs are evident that the Rangers will have good chemistry, Washington said. The newcomers have experience and good makeup, and the younger players who are expected to play significant roles have been in the organization for several years.
But mainstays Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Nelson Cruz have moved on from last season.
No matter what Kinsler said recently about how he didn’t want to be in a leadership role, he was a loud voice during a team meeting at Tampa Bay as September started to slip way.
Cruz, despite being suspended for 50 games for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, was a mentor to inexperienced players such as Leonys Martin.
Murphy always said and did the right things.
That trio had been playing together since 2007. Also gone is the impact veteran Joe Nathan made in only two years as closer.
“It is different,” Andrus said. “But when you’re preparing for the season and trying to find that chemistry, it all starts with personality. If you’re on the same page and we’re all pulling the same side, it’ll be easier to get through the season.”
Andrus said he has a feel for the character of the players who are expected to fill the 25-man roster March 31 against Philadelphia. He has given them the benefit of the doubt and trusted them from Day One at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
He has seen focus and talent from newcomers like Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and J.P. Arencibia, who also have the kind of winning personalities he has seen in previous Rangers clubhouses.
Left-hander Robbie Ross, entering his third season, has seen the same things as Andrus.
“We’re all here working hard, just trying to soak it in and get ready to go for the season,” Ross said. “Everyone is meshing together well. All the new guys that are here are good guys and are all ready to go.
“The guys who have been here for a while and know how to go about their business and have been on winning clubs, I think it’s going to be a good thing to have a new mesh of guys coming in. It’s going to be cool to get to know all the guys who are new on a deeper level.”
That process is under way but will gain steam next week when the spring roster is trimmed further. Andrus isn’t worried, and neither is Washington, despite the massive roster turnover the Rangers have experienced the past two years.
But he isn’t going to know for sure until the Rangers start playing games that matter.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” said Washington, who prides himself in giving players a foundation to build a united clubhouse. “I don’t expect this one to be any different. But I can’t answer a question on chemistry until I’ve got my team. That’s all the players. It’s up to them.”