SEATTLE -- Julio Borbon knows a little bit about what it's like for Leonys Martin right now. The 23-year-old Cuban defector -- a player that Borbon admitted he didn't know much about and had only heard about during spring training -- signed a five-year big league deal and has a spot on the 40-man roster.
When Borbon signed his contract after he was drafted in 2007, it was a four-year major-league deal worth $1.3 million and included an $800,000 bonus. No, that's not even close to the $15.5 million and $5 million bonus Martin got, but the deal meant Borbon was put on the 40-man roster. So right away, fans and the media kept track of what he was doing and whether he could make his way quickly to the majors. Borbon knows it's going to be the same with Martin.
"It happens so fast," Borbon said. "It shows you how much you need to take every day and keep playing hard and not just rely on your talent. I was there. It felt like yesterday. I got to my first big league camp in 2008 and I was with these guys like Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, Milton Bradley. Everyone was wondering when I was going to come up. Marlon Byrd left and they gave me a chance in center. Everything moves fast. He's a kid and I'm sure as much money he's been given, there has to be some talent there. I'm sure they're excited about him like they were when they got me."
Borbon knows that means there's more competition for his job in center field. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Wednesday that competition is good for the team, but that right now it's Borbon's job.
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law," Daniels said. "Julio is our center fielder. He's swinging the bat better lately. Julio has an opportunity to lay claim to the job for a long time. That's what our hope is. But as we go forward, we're better if we have options or depth. As we've seen this spring, things happen. You think you're set up in one area and some unusual circumstances come about and you're looking to make adjustments on the fly. If we can add talent at a premium position, even if it's duplicative, it gives the club options."
Borbon said he's ready to accept the challenge of having Martin in his rear-view mirror.
"Competition is the name of the game," Borbon said. "Everyday you go out and you have to prove yourself. You have to go out and give your best and show that you belong where you are. There's no extra pressure. You go out there and keep playing the same way. I've been competing since I was a kid, so ther's nothing that's going to change in terms of my mentality in going out there and getting things done."
On Tuesday, Borbon talked about how he was regaining his confidence. That's what happens when you start hitting the ball better and cut down on the defensive mistakes. After a disappointing spring training, a bad error to start the season on Opening Day and a slump at the plate for the first few weeks of the season, Borbon has started to settle in and play better.
Going into Wednesday's game with the Mariners, Borbon was 4-for-9 on the road trip and 9-for-22 (.409) in his last nine games. He was a spark late in Tuesday's game, singling to lead off the eighth, going to second on a sac bunt, stealing third base (picking the right pitch, a changeup in the dirt) and scoring on a squeeze play by Elvis Andrus.
"I think it's confidence," Borbon said. "I've been keeping the same approach and trying to be aggressive in the strike zone and let everything take care of itself. That's been the difference outside of those first two weeks."
Borbon said he's driving the ball better now. That was something he wasn't doing when the season began.
"I was basically playing pepper with it," Borbon said. "I didn't notice it much until I was watching video. But I would find myself throwing the bat at balls instead of driving the ball like I knew I was capable of."
Borbon said he didn't stray from his routine when things weren't going well early defensively. He's kept up with his early work with outfield coach Gary Pettis and continues to work on doing a better job of reading balls and reacting in center field.
"My mentality is to separate defense from offense," Borbon said. "I wanted to take care of my defense and make it better. You go out there and no matter how you're doing at the plate, you focus on defense. I feel like I've done a better job at that. It's been a complete difference than early in the season. It was a matter of forgetting about some of that stuff and improving overall."