SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don't tell Elvis Andrus that he isn't a rookie anymore. That's not the way he's approaching his sophomore season as the Rangers' starting shortstop.
"I still think I'm a rookie," Andrus said. That's my approach for this year. I'm not going to try to change things because it's my second year."
But a lot has changed for Andrus. For starters, he arrives in Surprise, Ariz., old enough to have a beer if he wanted. And he's, without question, the club's shortstop of the future.
The 21-year-old also gained valuable experience in 2009, a season where he managed to exceed lofty expectations. Andrus finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .267 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 145 games. He had 33 stolen bases, leading all rookies. And was just the fifth player in maojr league history to have 30 or more stolen bases while playing most of the season under the age of 21. He also wowed fans, teammates and opponents with his highlight-reel defensive plays.
In other words: It was an impressive rookie campaign, considering the club moved Michael Young, a Gold Glove shortstop to third base to make room for him. Andrus doesn't seem to have a huge problem handling pressure.
But he also has avoided basking in the accolades of his 2009 season. He identified some areas that needed improvement and applied those in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. It starts with making the plays consistently on routine ground balls.
"The routine ground balls are the ones I have to make," Andrus said. "I understand that part of the game."
Many of Andrus' 22 errors last year were on routine plays. And more than the glove work, it was the throws to first that proved costly. Andrus said he emphasized that in winter ball and felt like he's improved.
"It's about my release point," Andrus said. "I lose that sometimes and the ball goes everywhere. Once I found that release point, I was fine. I need to find that faster this year."
Andrus benefited from having veteran players around them that could provide support. The coaching staff, including Washington and infield coach Dave Anderson, helped. But so did Young, Ian Kinsler and Omar Vizquel. Andrus will still use those folks as he begins his second year.
Washington has made it clear that he wants Andrus to play around 150 games. That means making sure he gets breaks even when he may not want them. Washington feels that's important in Andrus' progress and that if all goes well, he can play even more in 2011.
"I'm doing what I think I have to do to keep him healthy," Washington said.
Andrus isn't worried about any particular stats. He admits that he does think about winning a Gold Glove, but he's more interested in team goals. In other words, he's already starting to show the leadership qualities the club expects of him.
"I just can't wait to get going," Andrus said.