Brad Hawpe will begin spring at first base

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brad Hawpe, the first baseman/outfielder the Rangers picked up this offseason, will begin spring training working exclusively at first base. He had Tommy John surgery on June 26 and is still recovering. The only thing he can't do is make long throws right now, so he'll start at first base.

"If we get the Brad Hawpe everybody remembers, we'll find a place for him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Hawpe arrived at camp in a cheerful mood. He feels like he's made good progress recovering from the surgery and feels good in the batting cages.

"Really, it's been a regular offseason for me," Hawpe said. "I've worked to build the arm strength and so the only difference was two-a-days instead of one with rehab in the mornings before my workout."

Hawpe knows he has an opportunity to make the club and is prepared to do whatever he's asked. He was signed as insurance with Mitch Moreland arriving at spring training coming off wrist surgery. But Moreland believes he's only a few days behind everyone else and if healthy, is expected to be the starting first baseman. Still, the Rangers have room on the bench and Hawpe is one player that is in the mix for that spot. Thanks in large part to the injury, Hawpe has struggled of late. But from 2006 to 2009 with Colorado, he was a reliable hitter who batted .288 in that span.

"My goal every year is to be an All-Star caliber player on a championship-caliber team," Hawpe said. "That's the bottom line. That's not going to change whether I'm on a multi-year deal or a nonguaranteed year. I'm still trying to be the same player."

Hawpe said if he can show he can play, then he believes they'll be a spot in the lineup for him when needed.

"That's the way the game works," Hawpe said. "For whatever positions you're playing, the best guy that can win the most games plays, everytime. It's not a competition in a clubhouse for that, it's just as a group for everybody to be the best and then somebody else makes decisions. There are plenty of at-bats to go around."

Hawpe has marveled at what the Rangers have done in such a short time, becoming one of the top teams in baseball.

"I think it's the most impressive team in the league right now," Hawpe said. "They are all coming back from a team that was just right there. Everybody is here, they've got some young guys that are still improving, the older guys aren't old, they are established, veteran players and are not on the decline. It sounds incredible. It's a great team."