SURPRISE, Ariz. --- The Rangers have hired former catcher Ivan Rodriguez as a special assistant in the front office. Rodriguez, who won 13 Gold Glove Awards and appeared in 14 All-Star Games during his 21-year Major League career, will work in all areas of the franchise, including baseball, business and community relations.
"This means a lot to me," Rodriguez said in a teleconference on Friday. "I'm very happy to be back in Texas. It feels very nice to be back and be a part of the front office. It's going to be exciting."
This is not a full-time position, but Rodriguez will do some baseball instruction with players, especially catchers in the farm system. He will also work on the business side with senior executive vice president Jim Sundberg and serve as an ambassador for the franchise. Rodriguez accompanied general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington on their annual visit to the Dominican Republic in January.
"We have a great organization, a lot of good players and a lot of young talent," Rodriguez said. "The talent in the Dominican is unbelievable. I had a great time working with them. When I retired, that's what I did in Miami, working with young guys. My job is to bring the best of my experience to these kids and make them better baseball players."
Rodriguez, signed by the Rangers as an amateur free agent in 1988, played for them from 1991-2002 and again briefly at the end of the 2009 season. He helped the Rangers win division titles in 1996 and 1998-99, and won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1999.
He also was the catcher for the Marlins in 2003 when they won the World Series before spending most of the next five seasons with the Tigers. He played in his second World Series with the Tigers in 2006. He played with the Yankees at the end of 2008, the Astros and Rangers in '09 and then finished his career with the Nationals in 2010-11.
The 13 Gold Glove Awards -- 10 coming with the Rangers -- is the most by a catcher. He is also the all-time leader with 2,427 games caught.
"He is probably the best homegrown player in the history of the franchise," Daniels said. "He should be a Ranger. You can tell he has a passion for helping players. He'll be a great resource. He's one of the greatest Rangers of all-time and a future Hall of Famer. He wanted to get back in the game, and it should be with the Rangers."
Martin to start in center in spring opener
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Leonys Martin will start in center field when the Rangers face the Royals in their first spring game on Friday at 2:05 p.m. CT in Surprise. Manager Ron Washington said Craig Gentry will start on Saturday, and Julio Borbon on Sunday.
That will begin the competition to be the Rangers' starting center fielder. From there, it will be up to Washington to find playing time for all three that would give them both a fair shot at the job and enough at-bats to get ready for the season. Rotating all three through center field isn't going to be enough, so there will be times any of the three could be asked to play one of the corner spots.
"I may not get them all equal playing time, but I need to make sure they get their repetitions," Washington said.
The Rangers will have extra playing time for outfielders because Nelson Cruz is leaving the team the first week in March to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Mike Olt will likely play some right field during Cruz's absence, but he is still working with outfield coach Gary Pettis.
"I haven't sat down with Gary yet," Washington said. "When he tells me Olt is ready to go, he's ready to go. But we haven't had that conversation yet."
Felix added to Team Mexico roster in Classic
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers catcher Jose Felix has been selected to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He is coming off a strong season of winter ball in Mexico and could play a significant role for his team in the tournament.
General manager Jon Daniels said Felix is one player in camp who could really benefit by playing in the World Baseball Classic.
"He's a guy for me that's clear cut," Daniels said. "Barring injury, there's no real role for him on the Major League club. I've encouraged him to go."
Felix is considered an excellent defensive catcher who is still trying to develop offensively. He hit .260 with a .377 slugging percentage at Double-A Frisco last year. But he played in Mexico and hit .330 with a .426 slugging percentage on a team that ended up winning the Caribbean World Series.
"They didn't say much, they just told me I made the team," Felix said. "I don't know if I'll get a chance to be the starting catcher or not, but I'm excited to be on the team."
The Rangers have six players in camp on World Baseball Classic rosters: Felix, Nelson Cruz and Leury Garcia (Dominican Republic), Elvis Andrus (Venezuela), Engel Beltre (Spain) and Derek Holland (United States) . Garcia has yet to make a decision if he'll play or if he'll stay in camp to compete for a utility-infielder role.
• Infielder Gabe Suarez, who is not in camp but is signed to a Minor League contract, is playing for Spain in the World Baseball Classic.
• Jeff Baker will start at designated hitter on Friday because Lance Berkman is still sidelined with a strained right calf muscle.
• Mike Olt will start at third base on Friday while Adrian Beltre continues to tend to a strained right calf muscle.
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.