Wash hopes to take pressure off Andrus

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Shortstop Elvis Andrus was moved down in the Texas Rangers' batting order for Thursday's game against the Seattle Mariners, batting eighth for the first time in three years.

Manager Ron Washington made the move to give Andrus, who still hasn't found his swing three months into the season, a little mental break.

"He's been struggling for quite a while," Washington said. "I'm just trying to take a little pressure off of him."

David Murphy, the other Rangers' regular who hasn't found a consistent groove was batting second on Thursday, only because he has hit in that spot this season, Washington said. Murphy entered July 4 batting .224, 18 points lower than Andrus' .242.

Andrus' offense is a concern because he has been an important part of the top of the Rangers' lineup for several years now. He is batting .195 for his last 39 games.

"It's been a tough year for me," Andrus said before Thursday's game. "I need to still trust myself. I'm going to end up in a good place."

Andrus said the problem is with his swing. He has been too quick to the ball, which is allowing opposing pitchers to attack him with breaking balls with him down in the count. They also are keeping the ball down, which is causing him to hit ground balls.

He's also pulling the ball more than usually. Andrus acknowledged that he's hitting too many ground balls to the left side of the infield. It has been the focus of his work with hitting coach Dave Magadan.

"I'm trying to hit everything in the front," Andrus said. "I'm not really seeing the ball right now. I need to let the ball go deep in the zone and put a good swing on it. When you see me hit that many ground balls, especially to third base and shortstop, there's something wrong. I know what I'm doing wrong and I'm still working on it in the cage. I'm still working on it with Dave. I'm working it out."

Andrus' biggest area of improvement should come with hitting with runners in scoring position. He has a .197 batting average for his last 71 at-bats in those situations, even though he had a four-game RBI streak end Wednesday. Andrus is batting .298 with runners in scoring position for his career.

"He might be trying too hard," Washington said. "He might be getting outside of himself. He's pulling the ball a lot more than he usually does only because he's trying to do things. He's struggling because he's trying to do more than he is capable of. It doesn't look good."

Andrus believes the move down to the bottom of the lineup can work. Maybe it will produce a home run. He hasn't hit one in 331 at-bats, the most in the majors this season. He is at 436 at-bats without a homer going back to last season.

"It will take pressure off for sure," Andrus said. "It's a different situation when you're hitting eighth and when you're hitting at the front of the lineup. I know that I have to do a few things, change everything around, especially my hitting. But it's not the worst thing in the world."

Moreland looks to break out: First baseman Mitch Moreland also is trying to get his bat going again, but his situation is different from Andrus and Murphy. Moreland is two weeks removed from being on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring.

Moreland has six hits in his 41 at-bats since coming off the DL. He's 1-for-17 in his past four games. He has also hit in some bad luck. Moreland ripped a line drive to lead off the bottom of the ninth in a 2-2 game Wednesday night, but Mariners second baseman Nick Franklin was standing right there.

Washington said it's just a timing issue for Moreland coming back from the DL. Moreland was on a tear before he got hurt, hitting seven home runs in 13 games at one point.

"It takes a while," Washington said. "Then all the sudden you center the ball and someone is standing there. Then you try do something. He's getting close. You may not see it, but he's getting close."

Other notes:

Draft pick wins first game: Rangers third-round draft pick David Ledbetter pitched five shutout innings to get his first professional win for Rookie League Spokane on Saturday night. He allowed three hits and had six strikeouts.

Draft update: The Rangers have signed 27 of their 41 draft picks, inking two more Thursday. Right-handers Jarred Smith (14th round, State College of Florida-Manatee) and Lucas Lanphere (21st round, Citrus Valley, Calif. HS) signed on Thursday.