SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers lost 95 games last year and finished in last place in the American League West, and there isn't a lot of optimism outside the organization that things will be better this season.But shortstop Elvis Andrus, who reported on Saturday, doesn't seem to mind the fact
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers lost 95 games last year and finished in last place in the American League West, and there isn't a lot of optimism outside the organization that things will be better this season.
But shortstop Elvis Andrus, who reported on Saturday, doesn't seem to mind the fact that people are giving the Rangers little chance to be better this season.
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"That's good," Andrus said. "I love that. When you play with a chip on your shoulder, that's the best. I know they're counting us out and we're going to be in last place. That's good. That fuels me as a player. I love when people doubt you already. They already put you in last place."
Maybe because there is still much doubt about a Rangers pitching staff that includes a rebuilt bullpen and a rotation with three starters -- Drew Smyly, Shelby Miller and Edinson Vólquez -- who are coming off Tommy John surgery.
"I love this pitching," Andrus said. "I know health is going to be the biggest thing for us, especially our rotation, but the guys that are there have been good in the past. I know they're ready to prove to everybody that they're still really good."
There have been many changes in the Rangers' organization in the past year, but one thing seems to stay constant. Their shortstop remains as upbeat, bubbly and optimistic as ever. The music, the noise level and the energy definitely went up on Andrus' first day in the clubhouse.
The only change for Andrus was that he found his locker has been moved. He is now in Adrian Beltre's old locker.
The symbolism was hard to miss. Andrus and Beltre spent 10 days vacationing in London and Paris during the offseason, but when they came home, only one went to Spring Training. Beltre is retired, and Andrus is becoming one of the elder statesmen as he prepares for his 11th season with the Rangers.
"It's too hard to fill his shoes," Andrus said. "I don't think anyone, even if they try, is going to fill the shoes of Adrian Beltre. It's symbolic because I knew Michael [Young] was here and Adrian was here and now I'm here. It's kind of cool to get that feeling a little bit, but at the same time, I'm going to continue to be myself."
Manager Chris Woodward said nothing should change for Andrus.
"He should puff out his chest a little more in that clubhouse," Woodward said. "Everybody respects him for what he has done in his career. He deserves the opportunity to be looked up to. There's no added pressure, he just needs to be Elvis."
Andrus may have other things on his mind as well. He missed over two months in the first half of last season with a fractured right elbow and finished with a career low .256 batting average, plus a .308 on-base and a .367 slugging percentage. He also went from 20 home runs and 88 RBIs in 2017 to six and 33, respectively, last season.
Andrus just never felt right at the plate, even after returning from his injury.
"I was still having some discomfort, especially when I was swinging," Andrus said. "Throwing-wise, not really. Maybe if I lowered my angle I felt it a little bit, but mostly it was my hitting. I went into the offseason [with my] mind open and ready to feel healthy 100 percent and get my strength back, and that's how I feel right now."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.