SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If outfielder Nelson Cruz does, in fact, end up signing with the Baltimore Orioles as reports suggest -- and ESPNDeportes.com says he'll sign a one-year deal at $8 million with $750,000 in incentives -- it further solidifies the notion that the Rangers will fill the DH spot with an internal candidate.
In other words: That's Mitch Moreland's best chance for more consistent at-bats against right-handed pitchers. With Prince Fielder at first base, Moreland is a player without a regular position. But he's also a left-handed bat that showed some power last year. That leaves him in the DH role, along with playing first base when Fielder needs a break or even the corner outfield spots.
Manager Ron Washington said Moreland will work with outfield coach Gary Pettis at both left and right field this spring. Moreland has played more right than left, but says he'll be out there getting used to it.
"I'm going to go out and try to play my game and get better today and try to make my team better," said Moreland, who added that he wasn't concerned that the club might trade him if they signed Cruz. "I want to get some time out there (in left and right) and get some reads. It's been a year or two since I've been out there regularly, so I think it will be a good time during spring to get a little more comfortable at both spots."
Moreland isn't likely to play against too many left-handed starters. He had a .241 batting average last year against them and hit just three of his 23 homers off lefties in 155 plate appearances. That may be a time when Washington rotates the spot, getting some half-days off for his regulars.
Washington said he plans on using that spot for Alex Rios, Adrian Beltre, Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo to get some time off their feet. He may use it for other players as needed, but those four in particular are the regulars he's going to keep an eye on when they need a quick break.
"It gets them off their legs," Washington said. "They don't have to stand out on defense. It means a lot to the body. You hit and run and then you stand out there and moving. All they have to do is hit and chill until the next at-bat. Some guys can do it well, and some guys can't."
But it's one more way for the manager to try to keep his key guys fresh for the stretch run.