Craig Gentry makes impression on Washington

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Craig Gentry won't make Texas Rangers fans forget about Josh Hamilton. But the center fielder has made quite an impression on his manager.

Manager Ron Washington was brutally honest Thursday when asked about Gentry, telling reporters that he has been surprised, maybe even stunned, by the strides the 29-year old has made this spring.

Gentry opens the season sharing center field with Cuban rookie Leonys Martin, who has made his own splash this spring, batting .350 with 12 RBIs. Gentry is likely to get the starting nod in Sunday's opener in Houston -- the right-handed hitter was in the starting lineup against Mexico City Rojas Diablos righty David Reyes.

Gentry had two more hits Thursday, both of them off right-handed relievers. He raised his spring average to .356. The Rangers already knew he could run and play center field. He has added offense, at least this spring.

"Gentry has improved tremendously," Washington said. "I didn't think he could. I didn't think he could be an every day guy. He's worked hard. He's learned how to get through the baseball. He's always been patient at the plate. We know he can play defense. He won't back down."

Washington said he won't decide until Saturday who will start in center field against the Astros. The manager endorsed both players, praising them for the way they've fought.

"Gentry deserves playing time," Washington said. "Martin deserves playing time."