Notes: His job to lose for Rangers' Cruz
Right fielder just has to be himself, manager Washington says
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- He played every game, went deep against Mexico and picked up an extra couple of thousand dollars when the Dominican Republic won it all.His first Caribbean World Series proved to be a memorable experience for Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz. "It was amazing," Cruz said. "The pressure was unbelievable. The fans were going crazy, plus the superstars like Miguel Tejada. I loved it." Now Cruz would like a memorable Spring Training and nail down the Rangers' right-field job. It is his to lose after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last July and hitting .223 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 130 at-bats. "This spring means a lot to me, to come here and get a chance to play every day in the big leagues," Cruz said. "This is what you hope to do. I just need to play my game and play hard." Cruz can run, chase down balls in the outfield and has an above average throwing arm. At the plate, Cruz has what manager Ron Washington calls "serious projectable power." Cruz mainly needs to show he can hit right-handed pitching and lay off the breaking balls that give him trouble. "All Cruz needs to do is be himself," Washington said. "He doesn't have to beat out anybody. He just needs to keep improving. Other than Kenny Lofton, he's got the most natural physical ability among our outfielders." Sammy Sosa will play some outfield this spring, but the Rangers are still looking at him mainly as a designated hitter. Washington just doesn't want Sosa to focus solely on his hitting. "It's about total game," Washington said. "He's going to play some defense. He's going to hit and he's going to pinch-hit. He has to get his whole game together, whether he's playing the outfield or is limited in the outfield. I still want him to get his whole game in shape. You never know what will happen in a game." The Rangers also want Sosa to help mentor Cruz. Both are from the Dominican Republic. "I haven't seen him play, but I'm going to be talking to him," Sosa said. "We've already talked some, but I'm going to be helping him. That's one of the things I like to do is help young players." Sosa doesn't worry Catalanotto: Frank Catalanotto signed relatively early in the offseason with the idea that he would get playing time at both designated hitter and left field. If Brad Wilkerson is healthy, he'll likely get the majority of the playing time in left field, leaving Catalanotto at DH. But the addition of Sosa might have added an extra wrinkle to the situation that wasn't there when Catalanotto signed. "These guys have to bring in as many quality guys as possible and make this team better," Catalanotto said. "There's a good chance that he can be close to the Sammy Sosa that we know and help this team win games. In my situation, they signed me to get at-bats and regardless of where it is, I'm sure I'll get at-bats." Catalanotto doesn't have the sheer power of some of his teammates, but his career .297 batting average is still third highest on the Rangers behind Michael Young (.300) and Lofton (.299). Catalanotto is a .303 hitter against right-handers and a .243 hitter against lefties. He knows he won't see much time against left-handers. "I know my role, but I'm going to take a positive attitude instead of pouting," Catalanotto said. "It will be good to let my body rest and get my head straight with some days off."
Arias' future: If the Rangers can complete a five-year contract extension for shortstop Michael Young, it will increase the chances of Joaquin Arias moving to center field.But right now the Rangers are focusing in on him winning a job as a utility player, and he will also play some second and some third base in Spring Training to increase his versatility. As far as a future in center, general manager Jon Daniels said, "It's based on how he takes to it. We'll adjust from there. He's a gifted athlete, so I think he'll take to it. The question is if he's as gifted a center fielder as he is a shortstop." Millwood watch: Pitcher Kevin Millwood, who has been tending to a sore calf muscle, threw in the bullpen on Sunday without a problem and probably will make his first start of the spring on March 7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. "We're not putting him on the mound until we're sure nothing is hurting," Washington said. But Millwood is far from falling behind, and pitching coach Mark Connor said he looked good in the bullpen. "He has more arm strength right now than he did on Opening Day last year," Connor said. John Rheinecker, who has been sidelined with back spasms, threw on flat ground Sunday, and Connor is hoping to have him back on the mound by Tuesday or Wednesday. He said it: "Where's my body guard?" -- Brad Wilkerson, watching Sosa being escorted from one field to another by two policemen because of the number of people watching him. Briefly: Daniels had a meeting with his pro scouting staff to discuss possible trades later this spring. The Rangers have extra relief pitching that might be available and right-handers Rick Bauer and Joaquin Benoit are both out of options. ... Kansas City's Billy Butler won Sunday's home run contest that included Rangers Minor Leaguers Nate Gold, John Mayberry Jr. and Jim Fasano. ... Non-roster pitcher Jamey Wright continues to impress with his stuff in camp. ... Washington on Lofton, who is 39: "Don't sell Kenny Lofton short. He may not have a great arm, but he can still run that cheese down."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.