Notes: Jeff Baker earns roster spot with strong play

PEORIA, Ariz. -- An amazing spring training paid off for utility man Jeff Baker, who has made the Texas Rangers manager, Ron Washington announced Monday.

Baker played for three teams in 2012 and in January signed a minor-league contract with Texas as a free agent, which included an invite to spring training.

"I told him this morning that he made the team," Washington said. "I haven't had that veteran presence (on the bench) that can make a difference, and that is a role he has played. He knows how to stay ready. What I've seen this spring is he has passed some of that experience on to the younger guys. He is always holding court. It's what we had when we had Omar Vizquel here."

Baker typically doesn't log frequent at-bats during the season, instead often seeing time as a late-inning replacement or getting a spot start for a regular who is getting the day off.

The 31-year old received plenty of playing time this spring and made the most of the opportunity. Baker turned heads, especially with his offense, and was on a hitting tear that lasted nearly three weeks. At one point he was 20-for-40 (.500) and reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances. Even after a relative cool streak during the last week, Baker still ranks among the Cactus Leaders in several offensive categories.

It is one of the contradictions of spring training that good performances are downplayed because the statistics don't count, yet jobs are won and lost based on those same performances.

The six-year MLB veteran has carved out a nice career because of his versatility, as he can play five positions: first, second, third, left and right field. Baker likely won't see much time at third but will be used at the other positions.

Baker is scratched from Monday's game with a sinus infection. He also missed Sunday's game against Cincinnati and was pulled from Saturday's contest in the third inning because of the ailment.

More team notes:

  • LHP Derek Holland will pitch in his first 'A' game with the Rangers since Feb. 28. Holland represented Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, pitching in one game March 10 against Canada. He returned and made a start in a minor league game for Round Rock (AAA) on March 19. Holland tossed five innings, allowing five runs on nine hits with two walks sand three strikeouts.

  • RHP Joe Nathan, LHP Nate Robertson and RHP Cory Burns are all expected to appear in a minor league game for Round Rock (AAA) today in Surprise.

  • LHP Brad Mills was in major league camp today after. The 28-year old was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angles, the team announced Sunday, and was added to the major league roster. To make room on the 40-man roster, Neftali Feliz was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

  • LHP Matt Harrison will start Tuesday's game as the Rangers reset their rotation in preparation of their home opener Sunday in Houston. The team will not use the fifth starter slot any more this spring and won't do so during the regular season until April 9. RHP Nick Tepesch will throw Wednesday.

    Injury notes:

  • RHP Kyle McClellan is nearly two weeks into a projected 3-4 week period of not throwing due to a strained right lat muscle. One cleared, he will begin a long-toss and flat-ground throwing program.

  • LHP Martin Perez has been cleared to begin a throwing program once he is pain free. He is no longer wearing protective gear on the arm. Perez is anticipated to begin throwing next week.

  • RHP Joakim Soria continues his recovery from his second Tommy John surgery. Barring any setback, he will begin throwing live batting practices the week of April 8.

  • RHP Colby Lewis (flexor tendon surgery) is on the same time frame as Soria for beginning to throw live BP, again barring any setback.