SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington was not ready to list off his lineup for Opening Day but did say that third baseman Adrian Beltre will be the cleanup hitter.
Beltre, 32, was the club's cleanup hitter for most of 2011. But after he returned from a five-week absence because of a strained left hamstring, Washington didn't want to move Michael Young from the No. 4 spot. Young performed well with Beltre on the DL and Washington chose to stick with Young at cleanup.
But 2012 is a new year and Washington likes Beltre at cleanup, where he had him to start 2011.
"He's a threat and he can hit any pitch," Washington said. "To me, that's the key right there. He's a threat to hit any pitch. He's there to produce runs."
Beltre hit .296 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs despite missing five weeks of the season and playing in 124 games. Beltre actually hit better the final month of the season as the No. 5 hitter, batting .319 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in just over 200 at-bats in that spot. He was no sloutch at cleanup, either, producing 55 RBIs and hitting 16 homers with a .276 average in 272 at-bats.
Beltre offers nice protection for Josh Hamilton in the three-spot and Washington then has the option to play around with second half of the lineup, putting Young or Nelson Cruz or even Mike Napoli in the 5-hole if he wants. That would in all likelihood make Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Hamilton and Beltre the top four. But Washington didn't want to commit to anything beyond that, cautioning that what he does with his lineup in Cactus League games starting tomorrow shouldn't be taken as what he'll do come April.
Washington was asked a few times last year about when he might put Beltre back at cleanup with his power, but Young was driving in runs and hitting around .330 consistently all year. So the skipper stuck with his plan, even in the postseason. Young was just 2-for-15 in the ALDS but stayed in the 4-spot. He found his stroke in the ALCS, and was 3-for-6 with a homer and five RBIs in Game 6 of the ALCS, which the Rangers won to go to the World Series for a second consecutive year.
"I took some heat for it, but Michael came through in Detroit and put us into the World Series," Washington said. "I'm going to do what I want to do when I want to do it and how I want to do it."
* Washington said he plans to start Craig Gentry in CF (saying he finished 2011 with the club, so he'll start the first Cactus League game out there), Mike Napoli at catcher, Mitch Moreland at first base and will play Michael Young, though he hasn't determined if that's at DH or in the field.
* Washington acknowledged that besides left-handed relief, center field and utility infielder, there isn't much to be decided. That's why health is the No. 1 goal of the Cactus League games. "I'm looking for these guys to stay healthy and get their repetition," Washington said. "They can play. We just have to get them the things they need to be ready and see what happens once the season starts."
* The Rangers had a security meeting Saturday morning, so workouts started a bit late. The first thing the team did was baserunning work, with Gary Pettis showing a few things at each base as all the position players looked on.
* One thing the Rangers do with their pre-arbitration players is they give them the option of choosing what incentive they'd like for a $10,000 bonus. For pitchers, for instance, it's a choice of Cy Young, All-Star team, Rookie of the Year, Rolaids Relief, ALCS MVP. Most players take the All-Star team option.