Rangers emphasizing pitcher defense in camp

The Texas Rangers have been in talks with right-hander Roy Oswalt, but the clubs aren't likely to reach an agreement for now. The team is also putting an extra emphasis on pitcher defense early this spring. TheSportsXChange has notes and quotes from the Rangers' first week of camp.

While the vast majority of attention was given to Yu Darvish on the first day of camp, a decision made more than 1,000 miles away could help them in the long run.

Roy Oswalt decided not to go to training camp with anybody.

The Rangers like Oswalt, 34, but have neither the payroll flexibility nor a spot open in the rotation at this point. Though Oswalt communicated to the Rangers that he wants to pitch in Texas, he was unwilling to take a non-roster deal or to pitch as a reliever. Because of that, the sides weren't able to consummate any kind of deal.

It left Oswalt with two choices: Sit out and wait for a chance to pop up with the Rangers or another contender because of injury or sign with a team he didn't really want to play for. It left the Rangers with potentially signing Oswalt and creating uneasy competition for the rotation or allowing a very attractive insurance policy walk away.

When Oswalt opted to continue to sit out, it gave the Rangers a fallback plan in case of an injury to one of the planned starters (Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darvish, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz).

"This gives us more flexibility," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said. "We're not forced to create a spot that we're not comfortable with. This gives us as much leeway as possible."

Rangers Notes & Quotes

  • Manager Ron Washington has decided to stress pitchers' fielding practice more ardently than in recent years. And with good reason. Rangers pitchers have the worst fielding percentage (.935) among all 30 MLB teams since Washington arrived in 2007. One major issue is RHP Colby Lewis, whose degenerative hip condition makes it difficult to get in proper fielding position. Lewis has nine errors over the last two seasons, tied with A.J. Burnett for the most in the majors.

  • LHP Kelvin De La Cruz, 23, was acquired from Cleveland in a cash deal. De La Cruz, who had been designated for assignment by the Indians, held left-handed hitters to a .141 average at Double-A Akron last year as a starter. The Rangers envision moving him into a relief role and seeing if he can compete for a left-hander's job in the bullpen.

  • SS Elvis Andrus became the first casualty of camp, missing an optional workout on February 24 after having a Plantar's wart removed from his left foot. He was expected to return, however, by the beginning of the week and miss no more than one full-squad workout.

  • C Mike Napoli caught RHP Yu Darvish's first bullpen session of the spring and his 19-pitch "live batting practice" session on the first day of pitchers and catchers workouts. It was the first time Napoli had caught a pitcher since the end of the World Series. Napoli nursed a sprained ankle and a bone bruise all winter. He will be monitored early in camp, but his preparation is not expected to be hindered.

  • C Yorvit Torrealba essentially conceded the catcher's job before camp started, saying C Mike Napoli "deserved more time behind the plate" after hitting .320 with 30 homers last year. Napoli is expected to catch more games this season after starting 59 in 2011. Torrealba started 95 games behind the plate. It's unlikely, however, the Rangers would shift to a traditional starter-backup division of playing time.

  • By the Numbers: 223 – Major league starts for the Rangers' expected rotation of RHP Colby Lewis, LHP Derek Holland, RHP Yu Darvish, LHP Matt Harrison and RHP Neftali Feliz. Neither Darvish nor Feliz has a major league start.

  • Quote to Note: "We feel that everybody in the mix has the potential and has pitched well in meaningful games. There is a lot of upside. Maybe the track record isn't there, but we may have as much or more ability than any staff in the league. We may be sacrificing a little track record for upside, but we trust that our coaching staff is going to get the most from these guys." -- Rangers GM Jon Daniels on the relative "greenness" of his starting rotation.

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