On one side of him, Prince Fielder tried to distract his television interview by barking his name. On the other side, Elvis Andrus blared his music and peppered him with taunts.
Texas Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin had just arrived at spring training Wednesday morning, the last of 61 players to report. And his teammates gave him a good-natured ribbing for it.
“I’m happy to be back again,” said Martin, who took it all in good fun. “It was a pretty good off-season for me. I worked so hard to get my body to feel good. I feel ready to go.”
Martin, who hit leadoff for much of last season, worked almost entirely on his base stealing in the off-season, he said. It’s an area that needed improvement after he was thrown out 12 times in 2014, second most in the American League. He stole 31 bases and has 67 steals the past two seasons.
“I need to do a better job on my jump this year,” he said. “I was 100 percent concentrated on my base running. I want to help my team any way to be back in the playoffs.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said he considers Martin a strong candidate to hit leadoff.
“I’m glad he wants to be the leadoff hitter,” Banister said. “I hope he takes that approach all spring. My message for him is and will be to show up with that attitude every single day. Show up and have the desire to be a leadoff hitter every day.”
Banister wants Martin and other potential leadoff hitters to take responsibility for the job, which includes being a smart base runner and doing homework on pick-off moves and pitcher tendencies.
“You’re the first guy that gets to go up there every night and set a tone for the rest of the eight with an opportunity to get your offense going early,” Banister said.
Darvish throws live BP
Yu Darvish and the rest of the front-line pitchers threw live batting practice Wednesday morning for the first time this spring. Pitchers opened camp with two bullpen sessions.
Darvish looked smooth, threw hard, and showed near flawless command over 30 pitches. Pitching coach Mike Maddux was impressed.
“He’s sharp. [Batters] couldn’t even pull the trigger on him and when they did they had a hard time,” Maddux said. “His stuff was good across the board.”
Darvish showed impressive power for his third day of pitching.
“He’s got more in the tank than that, but that right there is pretty much how he pitches in games. One thing about Yu, he does not overthrow,” Maddux said. “He stayed within his work-effort level, very consistent with his location, too.”
The pitchers will repeat the live batting practice routine through Saturday.
New faces arrive
Utility player Elliot Johnson and left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos — each recently acquired — were in the clubhouse Wednesday. Olmos hopes to help fill a need in the bullpen as a specialist against left-handed hitters.
“I knew they were in need of lefty relievers so you know it heightened my feeling of, ‘OK, I know I can be that guy that they can depend on.’ So I was really excited,” Olmos said.
Olmos wasn’t a complete stranger to his new teammates. He knew Jake Smolinski and Ed Lucas from the Marlins’ organization.
“It’s a tough thing. It’s part of the business,” he said. “You lose friends, you gain friends. It’s just the whole the road to the major leagues, going level by level and playing with new guys and new faces.”
Tickets on sale Friday
Rangers individual game tickets (except Opening Day) go on sale at 8 a.m. Friday at Globe Life Park, at TexasRangers.com, or by calling 972-RANGERS. The First Base ticket office will be open from 8 to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.