ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Over the next few days, the Dallas area will be subjected to a Final Four gathering of basketball teams that like to run, including a perennial slow-it-down program like Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, across the Gulf of Mexico, the Rangers will try to build on a similar approach as they attempt to find a more consistent offense after Friday's 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays left them with eight runs over the past three games. Entering Saturday's contest against the Rays, the Rangers rank ninth in total bases (52) and tied for 11th in stolen bases (1) with four other teams in the American League.
"We've got to get more aggressive on the bases," Ron Washington said prior to Saturday's game. "We had opportunities to go first to third, to steal. It's a matter of trust. That has to become natural development and instinct."
Part of it is getting the right lead. Part of it is reading the way the batter hits the ball.
Ultimately, it's a matter of chemistry, the intangible connection between what the manager expects and allows and how the player responds. With several new players on the club, Washington respects the early learning curve and understands it might take time for his mentality to catch on.
But to speed up the learning process, Washington had third base coach Gary Pettis work with Jim Adduci, Michael Choice, Shin-Soo Choo and Leonys Martin on leads and running from first to third hours before the 6:10 first pitch.
"We had Gary out there working with them, and if he doesn't want you to take a chance, he'll scream at you to stay there," Washington said of Pettis, who had 354 stolen bases and scored 568 runs during his 14-year career. "We want to make them aware of how we run the bases, the proper read, proper secondary. Be willing to challenge somebody."
And that goes the same for a player like Prince Fielder, who admittedly made a mistake in Friday night's loss when he paused coming around third despite Pettis' go sign and ended up being tagged out in a rundown.
"Prince admitted he made a mistake," Washington said. "We don't care about them getting picked off, getting thrown out. We want them to be aggressive. We trying to get them to run. Don't play tentative. You never know what you can do unless you do it."
Martinez debut: Nick Martinez will make his major league debut when he starts for the Rangers on Saturday night. The Miami native plans on having 50 friends and family members at the game. The team purchased Martinez's contract from Double-A Frisco and added him to the 40-man roster. Daniel McCutchen was optioned to Frisco to make room for Martinez on the 25-man roster. McCutchen did not fare well in his Rangers debut Friday, when the right-hander allowed three runs, two earned over 2 1/3 innings against the Rays. Martinez combined to go 12-7 with a 2.50 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) with Myrtle Beach and Frisco in 2013, his third professional season.
Saunders update: Joe Saunders, who exited Friday's game in the fourth inning after being hit on the left ankle by a comeback line drive off Evan Longoria's bat, had a nasty bruise on his ankle Saturday. The pitcher said he rode the bike as part of his pregame routine. The team will determine his next start based on how he responds to bruise over next few days.
Lineup shuffle: Michael Choice makes his first start for the Rangers when he bats sixth in the order as the right-fielder. In addition, Alex Rios will bat as the designated hitter. Washington said he wanted to give the regular outfielders an opportunity to get off their feet, especially on the turf at Tropicana Field.
Darvish ready: Washington said Yu Darvish, who will make his first start Sunday after missing his schedule Opening Day start due to a stiff neck, will be able to pitch as long as he can Sunday.
"I think he can throw 100 pitches," Washington said. "It's all determined on how Tampa Bay battles him, how he gets through each inning. He's not going to be out there throwing 115 pitches, though."
In his first start last season, Darvish tossed 111 pitches in the memorable attempt to finish with a perfect game before it was broken up with two outs in the ninth. Washington insinuated on Saturday that Darvish would not go past the 100-pitch mark, even if Darvish is cruising along to more perfection.
"But he's going to be out there as long as he's effective," Washington said.
Profar fielding again: Jurickson Profar (shoulder) resumed fielding drills with Washington for the second consecutive day. Profar will travel with the team when the Rangers go to Boston to face the Red Sox in a three-game series starting Monday. Washington anticipates Profar doing more each day after the second-baseman took several ground balls on Satuday. "He just can't throw like he was in spring training, but he's starting to get there," Washington said.
Last, but not least: Catcher Chris Gimenez took the free agency route rather than accept an outright assigment to Round Rock.