Washington unconcerned with outside opinions
Rangers manager looks forward to camp confident in club's composition
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Manager Ron Washington isn't too concerned about prevailing opinions that the Rangers had a "disappointing" offseason. One online poll suggested it was the most disappointing offseason for any team, exceeding even the suddenly budget-conscious Yankees.
"That's why you don't believe in polls or opinions, you believe in what's inside of your clubhouse," Washington said. "We're not backing down. There is no lack of attitude or commitment. We're going into Spring Training with the same attitude and commitment that we've always had.
"We believe in what we do. You can't stop opinions. The only opinion that matters is what's inside the clubhouse and we feel good about ourselves inside the clubhouse."
Washington arrived in camp on Monday, one day before pitchers and catchers officially report. But there were a number of pitchers who were throwing on the back fields on Monday, and the indoor batting cage had several hitters taking their hacks, including Ian Kinsler, Craig Gentry and Mike Olt.
Washington bundled up in a heavy jacket and carried a cup of coffee as he made the rounds in his golf cart. A cold wind blew from the north all morning, there were light intermittent rains and, in the distance, snow could be seen on the tops of the mountains.
But the sun broke through after the lunch hour and the weather forecasts are better for the rest of the week. The Rangers' first week of workouts are supposed to be held under sunny skies and warmer temperatures.
After watching the informal workouts on Monday morning, Washington met with the media and addressed multiple topics, ranging from the fifth starter and the bullpen, to center field and first base. He also talked about infielder Jurickson Profar and suggested that he is not going to play much outfield.
"Anything is possible, but hopefully we can keep this young kid focused on where he best goes," Washington said.
As far as other subjects …
• Washington said the fifth spot in the rotation is wide open. Right now, the candidates include veteran right-handers Randy Wells and Kyle McClellan, rookie right-handers Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Cody Buckels and left-hander Martin Perez. Washington said left-hander Robbie Ross, who was in the bullpen last season, will get a legitimate shot at making the rotation. That may leave the Rangers short from the left side in the bullpen, but that's still the plan.
"We're giving Ross a full opportunity to get a starting job," Washington said. "If we have to, we'll adjust in the bullpen as we get deeper into the spring. Any pieces we need to go out and look for, we'll look for them."
• Washington said closer Joe Nathan and right-handed setup reliever Jason Frasor are the only two guaranteed spots in the bullpen. Right-hander Josh Lindblom has the inside track for a spot, but Washington said the rest of the bullpen is "wide open" as well.
"We're not anointing anybody right now," Washington said. "We've got some pieces so when Spring Training starts, we'll see what happens."
• Center field is between Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry and Julio Borbon. The Rangers will look at all three, but it's clear that Martin has the best chance of winning the job outright. It could also come down to a platoon between Martin and Gentry.
"We'd all like to have a guy we can pencil in every day," Washington said. "If that's not the case, I won't have a problem with a platoon. Now we just have to let them play."
• Washington declined to comment on outfielder Nelson's Cruz's potential problems with the Commissioner's Office. Cruz was among several players who have been linked to a Miami wellness clinic that is alleged to have been selling performance-enhancing drugs. MLB is conducting its own investigation.
As for Cruz, Washington said, "As far as I know, he's my right fielder."
• Washington said Mitch Moreland is going to get the opportunity to play against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers this spring. Moreland, a left-handed hitter, has been platooned against many left-handers in the past, but the Rangers will give him a chance to face both this spring.
"David Murphy got that chance last year and did a good job," Washington said. "We just want Mitch to come in here, stay healthy and continue to improve. If he does that, he'll be fine."
• Washington also addressed his statements from the end of last season that he may have played his regulars too much and ran them into the ground at the end. He would like to avoid that again this season, but much depends on the Rangers having an improved bench.
"Hopefully we can keep these guys strong," Washington said. "But you're only going to get to where you want to go by saddling up your horses and riding them. We certainly need to improve our bench. If we do that, we can give them more breaks than we have in the past. But I'm not going to back off my horses."
One way the Rangers may improve their bench is by having some of their top young prospects play multiple positions. Olt will play first, third and the outfield. Leury Garcia, who is a middle infielder, will also get a look in center field. Profar will play shortstop and second, and also take some grounders at third. The club's plans for him in the outfield remain nebulous.
But the Rangers have over six weeks to figure it out. Pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday and Opening Day is not until March 31.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.