- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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The good news for Leonys Martin is that Ron Washington said the 25-year-old center fielder is his pet project this season.
The bad news: Washington will be critiquing his every move - good or bad - in hopes that he can extract all of his talent.
When the Rangers talk about somehow being a better offensive club despite losing Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, who combined for 67 home runs and 184 RBIs, they’re expecting players such as Martin to step up.
He’s the kind of guy who can single, go first to third on another base hit and score on a groundout. But he also has enough power to generate some extra base hits and turn those into runs.
Coach Gary Pettis, who earned five gold gloves as a player, will also be hounding Martin about his defense. Center field in Rangers Ballpark is vast. Misplaying balls can be disastrous.
The Rangers have invested $15.5 million in Martin, but that won’t help him win the job. It’s more an indication the Rangers believe he has tremendous potential and the ability to make Hamilton's absence just a little less painful.
Of course, the Rangers also have Craig Gentry, who played well last season and could be part of a platoon in center field with Martin.
Part of the reason the Rangers haven’t signed Kyle Lohse is because they believe he’s slightly better than just a guy.
Lohse is 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA the last two seasons, but that’s in a NL pitcher’s park.
While it’s obvious the Rangers will need more than five starters, they’re not interested in giving a 34-year-old pitcher a multi-year deal worth about $14 million a year and sacrificing a first-round pick.
They checked into Detroit’s Rick Porcello because he’s a younger, cheaper option with more upside, but he might not be in the rotation either when Colby Lewis returns. The Rangers believe -- based on doctors' reports -- that Lewis will return to the rotation in late May.
One reason the Rangers moved Gary Pettis from first base coach to third base coach is because Ron Washington wants the club to be even more aggressive running the bases.
Washington doesn’t just want the Rangers going from first to third regularly, he wants the team being aggressive from second to home and first to home.
He also wants the Rangers stealing bases again, regardless of how pitchers use slide steps and pickoff attempts to stop them. Recognizing pitch sequence is one way to do it. That’s a fancy way of saying the Rangers need to run more on breaking-ball counts.
Dave Magadan’s job is to convince hitters that situational hitting and execution is the most important aspect of their job.
It’s not homers and RBIs. It’s not on-base percentage. It’s moving runners over, getting runners home from third with less than one out. It’s doing all of the little things that result in scoring runs and doesn't require the ball to be hit out of the ballpark.