03/29/2013 8:26 PM ET
Berkman: Rangers winning Texas
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SAN ANTONIO -- The Rangers two-game series with the Padres at the Astrodome may help them on the marketing front in south central Texas. But designated hitter Lance Berkman said the Rangers have been beating the Astros the last few years in the battle for Texas.
"Texas fans, except for the Aggies, are front-runners, they go with who is winning," Berkman said. "A&M fans are the exception because they are fiercely loyal. When Texas won the national championship in football in 2005, it was crazy. When we went to the World Series with the Astros in 2005, you saw Astros hats and jerseys everywhere.
"That's the same with the Rangers when they went to the World Series two out of the last three years. They hold the upper hand now and they'll keep the upper hand if they keep winning. The in-roads the Astros made by having a Double-A team in Corpus Christi and Triple-A team in Round Rock have been lost with the way the Rangers are going. The Rangers have made huge in-roads and this is a real feather in the Rangers cap playing in front of a huge crowd in neutral territory."
Berkman played 12 seasons for the Astros and the past two with the Cardinals before signing with the Rangers in the off-season. He was born in Waco, played baseball at New Braunfels Canyon (Tex.) High and was an All-American at Rice University.
Murphy, Cruz enter season without extensions
SAN ANTONIO -- The flurry of contract extensions that swept through baseball in the final days of Spring Training did not reach the Rangers.
Outfielders David Murphy and Nelson Cruz are going into the season unsigned beyond this year. Both could become free agents after the season.
"Not every player gets to play with a multi-year deal for the next five years," Murphy said. "I'm not going to do anything different than I have the past five years. Play well and good things will happen. More than anything is staying healthy but if you focus in your contract situation it will drive you crazy."
The Rangers touched base with Murphy's agent Michael Moye in Spring Training, but nothing came out of it. The Rangers are still waiting on Cruz's situation with Major League Baseball to be resolved. He is still under investigation for a possible link to a Miami wellness clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs and the Rangers have no new information on that.
Cruz said he is not concerned about going into the season unsigned beyond this year. Cruz still remembers the end of Spring Training in 2008 when the Rangers designated him for assignment and no club picked him up.
"I don't want to put a lot of things on my mind," Cruz said. "I have stuff to focus on to help us win games. My main concern is the team. What happens after the season, I don't know. I'm in a better situation than I was five or six years ago. I was almost out of baseball, designated for assignment and other stuff."
Ryan pleased with Rangers' spring progress
SAN ANTONIO -- Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan was willing to talk about his baseball team before Friday's exhibition game at the Alamodome. But that was all in a brief session with the media.
"Offensively our club has come together and our pitching has gotten better as Spring Training has gone on," Ryan said. "I think we'll go as far as our pitching takes us. Obviously you worry about injuries but hope they don't come into play."
Ryan said he expects the Rangers to contend for the American League West title.
"Obviously if we stay healthy and our pitching allows us the opportunity, we will contend in the division," Ryan said. "That's what you hope for coming out of Spring Training and I think we're in position to do that. My expectation is we're a playoff team but as I say, it all hinges on what happens with injuries and our pitching."
But Ryan declined to discuss his own uncertain future with the Rangers and the possibility he might step down altogether. Ryan, who has been in discussions with Rangers ownership about his future role with the ballclub, said he hasn't made any decisions.
"No, I really haven't," Ryan said. "I'm just looking forward to the start of the season. I don't have any time frame."
Rangers play in quirky Alamodome dimensions
SAN ANTONIO -- Major League baseball came to the Alamodome for the first time on Friday, and the Rangers had much to absorb as they took a look at the temporary baseball design for their two-game series with the Padres.
The Alamodome was built to attract NFL football, not Major League ball. That left the right-field wall just 285 feet down the line from home plate with a 16-foot wall running straight out to center field. From there a four-foot wall turned and ran straight to the left-field foul pole, which is 354 feet from home plate.
The right-field wall seems inviting for a left-handed power hitter.
"It would be a great place to start bad habits," said first baseman Mitch Moreland, who spent Spring Training working on hitting the ball all over the field rather than just trying to pull it. "No, really it should be a lot of fun here. We're looking forward to a couple of games here. I'll just stick to my approach and stay with it and keep competing."
There were some concerns about the lighting inside but manager Ron Washington dismissed that saying, "Every single one of these guys played in worse lights in Minor League parks."
Derek Holland has to make his final start here when he pitches against the Padres on Saturday.
"With the short porch, you've got to keep the ball down," Holland said. "They can hit the ball to left all they want. It's definitely different dimensions. Even on the mound I felt I was right on top of the plate.
"Even though this is my last game of Spring Training, I still want to finish strong. I don't know how long I want to go but I'm still working on things -- mechanics, pitches, location, my off-speed stuff, everything."
• Unlike most teams, the Rangers don't get an off-day between their last exhibition game and the first game of the regular season. The Rangers open on Sunday against the Astros so manager Ron Washington will likely sit most of his regulars on Saturday for the final exhibition game against the Padres. None of his primary relievers will work that game.
• Rangers fifth-starter Nick Tepesch makes his first start on April 9 against the Rays and doesn't have to be added to the 25-man roster until then. That will allow the Rangers to carry an extra player for the first 10 games, but they haven't decided if it will be a pitcher or a position player.
• First baseman Chris McGuinness is among the Minor Leaguers brought to San Antonio as extra players for the two-game series. McGuinness was a Rule 5 Draft pick by the Indians last December and was returned to the Rangers on Wednesday.
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.