Rangers' pitchers stressing defense

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Rangers manager Ron Washington watched intently onThursday and Friday as his pitchers took fielding practice. Washington, as is his custom, grabbed a bat and was hitting choppers as part of the drills, getting a close-up view of how his pitchers worked.

Washington stressed defense when he met with the pitchers and catchers prior to Thursday’s first workout. It was clearly something that was on his mind this offseason.

"When the manager stands up and makes it a big point, it sets in," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "We put ourselves in predicaments that we shouldn't have been in. If you throw it away, you throw it away. But if you throw it away because your footwork is not sufficient, then we have an issue. That's the big thing -- fundamentals."

Rangers pitchers had 16 errors last season -- only three AL staffs had more. But it wasn’t just the errors that bothered the coaching staff. There were balls that the pitchers couldn’t quite get to or did get to, but couldn’t quite make a play. Spring training is the time to try to clean some of that up and that’s what the Rangers are focused on so far.

It doesn’t hurt to have Greg Maddux on the staff. He has 18 Gold Gloves and is on the field with the pitchers as they work on defense.

"He's in camp, and we're certainly not going to stop him from being a part of it," Washington said.

"He's going to be a big part of it, but also Ron Washington is going to be a big part of it. I just want to make sure that we get this right."