2/18/2014 5:20 P.M. ET
Martin excited to team with countryman Contreras
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There are no guarantees that pitcher Jose Contreras will be on the staff coming out of Spring Training. But outfielder Leonys Martin is thrilled that the 42-year-old right-hander is here in camp.
Both are from Cuba. Martin, 16 years younger, said Contreras was one of his favorite players growing up and remembers watching him pitch for the White Sox during the 2005 World Series.
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe we're on the same team," Martin said. "I remember watching him in the Olympic Games. He was an awesome pitcher."
Martin was in camp on Tuesday, a day before the official reporting date for position players. The first full-squad workout is on Thursday. Shin-Soo Choo and Mitch Moreland were also spotted in the clubhouse on Monday. Alex Rios, Jurickson Profar and Adrian Beltre are already here, so the only two starting players not yet in camp are shortstop Elvis Andrus and first baseman Prince Fielder.
Yu jokes that Yankees gave too much to Tanaka
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, during a news conference on Tuesday, was asked about the new posting system between Major League Baseball and Japan in light of the seven-year, $155 million contract pitcher Masahiro Tanaka received from the Yankees.
"I don't know all the details of the new posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him a little bit too much," Darvish said with a smile and a laugh through interpreter Kenji Nimura.
Darvish was trying to make a joke when he said it. He even released a statement through the club later Tuesday afternoon to reinforce that.
Said Darvish: "I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka at the press conference today. I assumed by the reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking."
But there's no doubt the new posting system has had a dramatic impact on the top players coming from Japan to the United States. The Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee to Darvish, and then having exclusive negotiating rights, signed him to a six-year, $56 million contract.
The Yankees only had to pay a $20 million capped posting fee. But they had to bid against other teams, and that's why Tanaka received almost $100 million more than Darvish.
Darvish said his success along with Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners helped Tanaka in the way that clubs scouted and evaluated him.
Top to bottom, Texas wants better situational hitting
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Manager Ron Washington said situational hitting will be a major focus for the Rangers in Spring Training. That's hardly surprising given Washington's ingrained philosophy as a manager, but it's something he wasn't happy about last year.
"We didn't do a very good job of it," Washington said. "I want everybody understanding what their job is in the lineup. I want everybody to understand that situation is paramount before self. If we can think like that, we can win 4-6 more ballgames."
It could also help the Rangers find those lost 78 runs. They led the American League with 808 runs scored in 2012, but fell to sixth with 730 runs last season. The Rangers added Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder in the offseason to fortify the top of the order.
But Washington said the bottom half of the order -- designated hitter Mitch Moreland, catchers Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia, second baseman Jurickson Profar and center fielder Leonys Martin -- needs to be proficient at situational hitting.
"Those guys have to do the little things," Washington said. "Move runners over, bunt, hit and run, squeeze, they will have to pay attention to what the game says has to be done. Every time they execute, they set it up for the guys who get paid to drive in runs."
Rangers scratch Harrison, Scheppers from throwing
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was scratched from throwing batting practice on Tuesday because of some stiffness in his neck. Harrison said he woke up with the stiffness on Tuesday morning, and the club decided not to push him.
"I wanted to throw," Harrison said. "That's what I told them. But they didn't want to take any chances."
Harrison will likely try to throw batting practice on Thursday. He has been throwing for two months, and this is the first issue he has had. It would hardly be a concern except Harrison missed almost all of last season because of a herniated disk in his lower back. Harrison had two surgeries on his back and another on his right non-throwing shoulder.
Reliever Tanner Scheppers was also scratched due to back spasms. Scheppers, who will be given a chance to make the rotation this spring, also had back problems during Spring Training in 2011, when he was trying to make the rotation.
• Pitcher Ben Rowen remains sidelined with biceps tendinitis. An MRI exam showed no structural damage, but he is still feeling discomfort and has been shut down in his throwing program.
• Pitching coach Mike Maddux on the impact replacement hip surgery has had on pitcher Colby Lewis: "I saw Colby get on his back side. I've never seen Colby get on his back side. He couldn't push down the mound, but now he's really driving down the mound. Before he was like pushing a shopping cart."
• Right-handed pitcher Shawn Tolleson has impressed early in camp by being able to pitch batting practice two straight days. Like Harrison, Tolleson missed almost all of last season with the Dodgers because of a herniated disk in his lower back that required surgery. So far, he is throwing the ball well in camp.
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.