Darvish, Hamilton among early storylines

As the Texas Rangers prepare to enter spring training, there aren't many questions about the roster. One spot that is up for grabs is the opening day center field job, with Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin battling as the contenders.

Perhaps nobody can describe it better than Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.

"It wouldn't be Rangers spring training," Daniels said, "without a little bit of crazy going on."

As the Rangers prepare for their 40-day trip to Surprise, Ariz., the Rangers have a lot of crazy going on.

There is the presence of Japanese right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish, who will be joined by a cast of more than 170 Japanese media members. There is the ongoing saga of outfielder Josh Hamilton, who slipped in his battle for sobriety in late January and has only been interviewed on Glenn Beck's website. Oh, and there is the little matter of being one pitch away from winning the World Series last October, only to have it all slip away.

"We've dealt with distractions before," Daniels said. "I don't think there is a team better equipped to deal with distractions than this team. I don't think our guys need extra motivation, but from day one last spring, our focus was just amplified. I know we lost in more dramatic fashion this time, but I think, if anything that will only motivate us more. I hope it will be the same deal this time."

The good news is that even if there are some distractions, there aren't a lot of decisions that could be affected. The Rangers are pretty much set, except for who plays center field and some fringe roster spots.

The Rangers like it that way. Truth be told, Daniels hates making spring training decisions.

"There is a lot to be said for observing things in spring training," Daniels said. "You observe the focus, the mindset, any changes a guy has made to his body or his game, but when you start making decisions based on spring training results, they are often just not reliable. It's a unique environment -- playing day games in Arizona and often facing guys they wouldn't face during the regular season -- and it can leave you open to making questionable decisions."

In center field, the Rangers are leaving things wide open for Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin to duke it out. All three are speedy. Gentry is the most refined of the three and the superior defender. He played significant time in center field over the final five weeks of the season.

Rangers Notes & Quotes

  • OF Josh Hamilton, in his first sit-down interview since acknowledging a slip-up in his battle for sobriety, told Dr. James Robison that he was undergoing both one-on-one counseling and seeing a counselor with wife Katie. Hamilton made the statements while Robison was guest-hosting for Glenn Beck on the latter's subscription-only website.

  • C Mike Napoli, who avoided a salary arbitration hearing by agreeing to a $9.4 million one-year contract last week, said he's still rehabbing the ankle he hurt in Game 6 of the World Series last year and probably won't be "100 percent" at the start of spring training. Napoli will be "monitored" at the start of spring.

  • OF David Murphy, who will likely be stuck in the fourth outfielder's role again unless there is an injury, said he has contacted outfield instructor Gary Pettis to ask for help in improving his routes.

    "There were too many balls last year that, at the end of the play, I was thinking, 'I could have caught that." Murphy said improving his defense is the biggest improvement he can make this season.

  • OF Craig Gentry is going to spring training with something he's never had before: A genuine opportunity to become a regular player. The Rangers have categorized their center field race as being wide open.

    While Josh Hamilton will figure to play some center, the team would like to keep him in left as much as possible. That leaves things wide open for Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin to compete.

    "I need to put together consistent quality at-bats," Gentry said. "If I can get on base and make things happen, I can do some things."

  • Manager Ron Washington said he has no plans to fiddle with the top of the batting order this spring. 2B Ian Kinsler will be the Rangers leadoff man again. Washington wants SS Elvis Andrus to remain in the No. 2 spot, but said Andrus still has things to work on. If Andrus doesn't hit second, DH Michael Young might move back into the role.

  • By the Numbers: .628 – 1B Mitch Moreland's OPS after July 1, which ranked 97th of 105 AL players with at least 200 plate appearances over the final three months of the season. Moreland played the second half with a small broken bone in his right wrist, which has since been surgically removed.

  • Quote to Note: "I've been put in this position, I really believe, for a reason because I'm not afraid of my mistakes. I do feel shame about my mistakes, but I can get past that. And I can allow people into my world and look at them and say, 'I suck sometimes.' I make mistakes, but at the same time, I learn from my mistakes and I'm learning from my mistakes." -- OF Josh Hamilton on how he deals with mistakes during a web-only TV interview.

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