Notes: Young looks for quicker start
Rangers shortstop believes consistency will be the key
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Tigers Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer was known as "The Mechnical Man" for the steady, quiet way he went about the business of playing baseball.That approach allowed him to be the first middle infielder in Major League history to have five straight 200-hit seasons from 1933-37. Rangers shortstop Michael Young became the second when he finished with over 200 hits last year for the fifth straight season. If Young is to pass "The Mechnical Man" this season, he needs to fix his own mechanics. That's his goal for Spring Training as he tries to bounce back from what was overall a challenging season for him in 2007. "I want to make sure this year I'm staying as mechanically sound as possible -- offensively and on defense," Young said after showing up for Spring Training on Sunday. "Just make sure everything I do I'm doing consistently. That's going to help me to make sure I get off to a quick start on the season." He didn't get off to a quick start last year. He was down to .192 on May 3 and had to scratch and claw to get his batting average and hit total back to normal levels. He finished at .315, one point higher than the year before. But he also finished with 267 total bases and a .418 slugging percentage, his lowest since 2002. He had a .513 slugging percentage in 2005 and a .459 slugging percentage in 2006. "I've had quick starts to seasons before, and I had a slow start last year," Young said. "Sometimes that just happens. I don't really concern myself with why. I know last year as a whole, even in the second half, I was as mechanically inconsistent as I've been in my career. I think mentally I just found a way to grind through the season. "I think during the offseason and here in Spring Training we're really focusing on mechanics and making sure I'm doing everything consistently well. That's going to give me the best chance to get off to a quick start and maintain that through the season." He talked about being consistent and staying mechanically sound being his main concerns. But he also wants to win badly, and the Rangers have had just one winning season in the past eight years. He still insisted he was excited coming into Spring Training. "I don't really concern myself about where we're going," Young said. "That's really not my responsibility. My job is to make sure I'm ready to play in 2008. So far as where we're headed in the future, it's nice to know your team wants to develop your players. "I'm sure that's the goal of any organization. But at the same time, as a player, I want to make sure we're playing for this year and not any time after that." As for the past, Young said, "It's been frustrating, that's for sure. I've been through a lot of managers and a lot of GMs here and I've seen a lot of people come and go. Every time we get a new face in the organization they always try to change things and make sure the team is heading in the right direction. "My experience here is that we've had a lot of positive things. We just need to fine tune the things that went wrong. I don't think we ever need any major overhauls of this team. We've always had strong offenses, strong bullpens since I've been here. It's just a matter of making sure we stay healthy and -- I'm going to repeat this for a while -- pick each other up as a team." Rheinecker shut down: The Rangers have their first health concern. Pitcher John Rheinecker has been shut down with swelling and tingling in his left arm and has been sent back to Dallas for further examination.
Rheinecker came to camp with a shot at being the third left-hander in the bullpen behind C.J. Wilson and Eddie Guardado. But this is the second year in a row that he has had health issues in Spring Training.Last year he had a back problem and began the season on the disabled list. He didn't start pitching until May 26 while on medical rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma. He was 4-3 with a 5.36 ERA with the Rangers. Millwood to pitch Opening Day: Manager Ron Washington stated the obvious on Sunday when he said Kevin Millwood would be the Rangers Opening Day starter against the Seattle Mariners on April 1. It will be the third straight season that Millwood has started the opener for the Rangers. He would be the first Rangers pitcher to start on Opening Day three straight years since Nolan Ryan in 1990-92. Charlie Hough also started three straight in 1987-89 and six overall, most by any Rangers pitcher since 1972. Kenny Rogers (1995, 200 and 2004) and Jon Matlack (1978, 1980-81) are the only other pitchers who have made three Opening Day starts for the Rangers. Mighty Josh: Josh Hamilton is putting on a daily show in batting practice. He's a left-handed hitter, but he has been going the opposite way and putting balls on top of the indoor batting cage well beyond the left-field wall. Washington at one point went into the cage and checked his bat. "I thought he might have some cork in it," Washington said. "No, I was just messing with him. He is one strong dude." No platoon for Hamilton: Hamilton hit .222 against left-handers last year, but Washington isn't planning on sitting him against them this season. Washington said he expects both Hamilton and Ben Broussard to be in the lineup on Opening Day against Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard. Frank Catalanotto is likely to be the only left-handed hitter who sits against left-handed pitching. Washington said Catalanotto will lead off against right-handers and Ian Kinsler will do so against left-handers. Kinsler likely will bat down in the order when a right-hander is on the mound. He said it: "It's tough. I know the situation I'm coming into, but it doesn't mean all the doors are closed. Maybe if I come in here and hit and play defense, maybe they can find a way to keep both of us." -- Travis Metcalf, who had a strong finish to the season last year but is likely to be headed back to Triple-A with the return of Hank Blalock to play third base Briefly: The Rangers are still getting calls from agents who are trying to find jobs for unsigned players. Scott Boras has talked to them about center fielder Corey Patterson, but the Rangers are happy with what they have. Boras also represents unsigned pitchers Kyle Lohse and Jeff Weaver. ... Washington is thrilled with how Blalock looks defensively after all the time they put into it while he was on the disabled list. Said Washington: "He held onto it. Dang, he looks good." ... Washington said he wants to get his regulars as many at-bats as possible in Spring Training. A good number for him is 90 at-bats, saying, "Kinsler got close to 90 at-bats last year and came out like a firecracker. I want to get these guys as many at-bats without grinding them into the ground."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.