02/13/2013 6:00 PM ET
Defense behind the plate, on mound a priority
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' first workout of the spring began with pitchers fielding practice on Wednesday. Manager Ron Washington is once again making it a priority and part of the first round of drills involved pickoff moves and holding runners on base.
The Rangers did not do that well in 2012. They threw out just 20.3 percent of attempted basestealers, the third lowest percentage in the American League. Catcher Geovany Soto caught seven batters stealing while allowing 28 stolen bases after being acquired from the Cubs on July 30.
"The blame goes on everybody," Washington said. "Not just the pitchers, not just the catchers, we're all a part of it. We're working on it, trying to perfect our technique and hope the results get better."
In his career, Soto has thrown out 26 percent of attempted basestealers while A.J. Pierzynski, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has thrown out 24 percent. That includes a 26 percent caught stealing mark last season with the White Sox.
The Rangers did achieve Washington's goal of improving their mound defense. Rangers pitchers turned 15 double plays and committed just seven errors in 2012. They committed 16 errors and were a part of just seven double plays in 2011.
"We practiced it and practiced it last year and today we spent a lot of time on it," pitcher Derek Holland said. "If we can cover our territory, it makes it easier for [shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler] to make plays behind us. It helps us tremendously as a pitcher."
The seven errors were the fewest ever by Rangers pitchers in one season since 1972. Dodgers pitchers committed just two errors in 2004, the fewest by a Major League team since baseball went to a 162-game season. The 2003 Braves pitchers turned 30 double plays, the most ever by a team in a 162-game season.
Nathan seeks normal spring with Rangers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers closer Joe Nathan had an opportunity to pitch for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. He respectfully declined the invitation.
"It's about being smart and wanting to do what's right by the Rangers," Nathan said after the team's first workout on Wednesday. "Just coming in here and having a normal spring seemed like the right thing to do."
Nathan said there are no physical issues that prevented him from pitching in the tournament.
"I threw today and everything was fine," said Nathan, who had 37 saves for the Rangers in 2012. "Last year I got my work in and held up like I normally do. You have your good days and your bad days, but that comes with the territory."
Washington pleased with Holland's focus
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland came to Spring Training determined to focus more on his pitching and less on some of his outside interests and media requests. Manager Ron Washington is among those who have noticed the change.
"I see a change in his attitude and demeanor," Washington said. "He is getting his priorities in order. He is a young kid who is playing baseball at the highest level and he's trying to be accommodating to everybody. He needs to figure out who to accommodate and who not to accommodate. He's hoping to [succeed] on the baseball stage and it would be nice if all of his focus is on that.
"It looks like this spring he has turned the corner in his maturity."
Holland will not be with the Rangers much longer. He leaves later this month to join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
• Colby Lewis, who is coming off flexor tendon surgery, said he is hoping to start throwing off the mound in the first week of March with the idea of being able to pitch by June 1.
• Outfielder David Murphy and third baseman Adrian Beltre arrived in camp on Wednesday, two days ahead of the reporting date for pitchers and catchers.
• Manager Ron Washington on the Rangers' search for a utility infielder: "We've got some good internal pieces, but when there are available players outside, you've got to look at it. That's not a knock on what we have. We have to continue to look."
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.