Expectations high as Rangers start camp

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers begin the 2010 season amid high expectations. Fresh off an 87 win season that saw the team improve in key areas last season as the entire front office staff and team believing they can contend for a playoff spot this season.

"We expected ourselves to win last year," manager Ron Washington said. "There were many people surprised. I don't think anybody in our clubhoues was surprised. We left out of spring training expecting to do exactly what we did. We wanted to win more games and get to the playoffs, but we certainly expected to win. We just want to get to that consistent point. After going through what we did last year, guys are ready for that."

Daniels was quick to point out that the club isn't approaching the season as if winning 87 games is automatic.

"Our guys and the staff worked very hard to get to those 87 wins last year," Daniels said. "But we're not owed or guaranteed anything. That's not a jumping off point for this year. We start with zero. It's not as if anybody is obligated to give us those 87 and we have to go get the extra whatever it is to make the postseason. We have to earn every one of them. It's a clean slate for all the negative things, but also the positive things. We have to build on them."

Washington doesn't think the team will feel any of that added pressure.

"Pressure is what you put on yourself," Washington said. "As the manager and my coaching staff, it's our job to get these guys to believe that they need to go play baseball and play to the sitaution and let your talent take over. The overall scheme of things had to be we do the very best we can to keep them relaxed and keep them believing. Belief is a powerful thing."

A few notes from the quick media session with Daniels and Washington:

* The Rangers consider the catching spot an open competition. Daniels and Washington believe that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden can handle being the everyday catcher if needed. But the club is also still looking at veteran catcher possibilities as insurance. Saltalamacchia might have the inside track if he stays healthy, but he'll likely get some stiff competition from Teagarden. More on that later.

* Max Ramirez is coming in as a catcher, but should also get some time at first base. Daniels said they are looking at him in some roles, but he's coming off the wrist injury and has to prove himself.

* Frank Francisco is the closer. Washington made that clear. So C.J. Wilson either grabs a starting job or is a critical late-inning pitcher for the club.

* Those players of note out of options: Scott Feldman, Dustin Nippert, Luis Mendoza, Joaquin Arias, and Ben Snyder (not out of options, but club can't option him because he's a Rule 5 guy). (I was incorrect earlier on Doug Mathis, he does have options).