SURPRISE, Ariz. – Ron Washington’s patience is growing thin.
He had hoped one of the Rangers’ young players would have stepped up by now to fill the role of backup first baseman/third baseman on a team with championship aspirations.
It hasn’t happened, so the Rangers are scouring other camps to try to find that right-handed hitting role player Washington would like to have by the time the season opens on April 5 in Arlington.
The Rangers scouts, one team source said, keep coming back to Boston’s Mike Lowell, the player the Rangers were ready to trade for this past winter until questions about his injured thumb and surgically-repaired hip resurfaced.
With the acquisition Saturday of defensive whiz Andres Blanco from the Cubs, Washington even seems willing to refine the requirements for his second bench infielder. Washington said he’s confident Blanco could fill in at third – though he’s never played there in the majors – for the few games Michael Young might miss. That narrows the focus on the second infielder to a right-handed hitter who can occasionally spell Chris Davis at first against tough left-handers.
The club source said the Rangers believe they can still basically get Lowell for the player they were willing to give up over the winter, Max Ramirez.
There are other players on the Rangers’ watch list, like Kevin Millar, a non-roster invitee with the Cubs. But Millar may be in the process of earning that same bench/pinch-hitter role for Lou Piniella.
Wes Helms with the Marlins and Fernando Tatis with the Mets are a couple of others who would seem to fit the description of what the Rangers are hoping to find. They’ve accepted the fact that super-utility types like Geoff Blum with Houston and Willie Bloomquist with Kansas City are probably unavailable for the price they’re willing to spend.
The Rangers had hoped one of their youngsters like Matt Brown or Ramirez might have stepped up this spring, but that hasn’t happened and both have been struggling at the plate as the pitching has become tougher.
“Because nobody is trying to seize the opportunity, it makes it difficult,” Washington said.
Washington wants to see production and know that it’ll be there when the Rangers need it this summer.
“With where we’re at and what we’re trying to accomplish, we’re not talking suppositions any more,” he said. “Somebody has to show us.”
Even better, in Washington’s mind, would be an experienced player with a track record of producing when called upon.
That’s why, in the Rangers’ final week in Arizona, the team’s scouts are busier than ever.