SURPRISE, Ariz. – Perhaps it’s fitting that Julio Borbon's locker is tucked in the far corner of the clubhouse. After all, as the nearly 27-year-old outfield puts it, "I’ve been hiding this offseason.”
Borbon normally spends the months following the season in winter ball working on his game. But this year he took a different approach.
He went to Aliso Viejo, Calif., and worked on building his strength and giving his mind a break at the Boras Sports Training Institute (BSTI) with other Scott Boras clients.
“I trained with a bunch of guys there,” said Borbon, who hit .304 last year in Triple-A Round Rock and played the entire season there. “I decided to get ready physically and mentally going into this important year.”
Borbon is out of options. He either makes the club this year or he’s likely elsewhere because he’d have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors. And let’s be honest: He’s an underdog to make the team. He’s third right now in the center field pecking order behind Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry. It would seem his best chance to end up on the squad is as a fifth outfielder, but Mike Olt could end up designated for that spot depending on what happens in the infield. We’ll see.
“There’s a pretty uncharacteristic situation with the outfielders here, so there’s no telling or predicting anything at this point other than performing,” Borbon said. “I’ve got to go out there and play hard.”
Borbon was the club’s center fielder heading into the 2011 season. After a slow start, he found his stride in May. He went on a 10-game hitting streak where he hit .387 with four stolen bases and five RBIs, providing a spark at the bottom of the lineup until he strained his left hamstring trying to catch a fly ball hit by Hank Conger. Interesting enough, it was Gentry that replaced him in that game.
Borbon never did return to form or the big leagues after that.
He knows he has a lot to prove, but he feels good about the opportunity.
“I’m not worried,” Borbon said. “I think I’m in a good position this year in terms of what I’m going into. It’s in my hands, not anybody else’s. I have to come out and play. It’s my sixth spring training. I’m very comfortable around here. There might be some faces gone and some new faces, but the main core is here. I’m not feeling out of place. I’m ready to go. All I want to do is get a fair shot and play as hard as I can. That’s all I’m going to tell myself.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wants to see Borbon stay focused.
“I want to see focus for the whole spring and the whole season,” Washington said. “He sometimes loses focus and throws to the wrong base, misses the cutoff man, gets picked off.”
Washington said he hopes to see a player that is reacting out there and not thinking too much. Someone who is confident and knows that he’s supposed to do. We’ll see if Borbon can show that this spring.