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Banister focused on improving baserunning

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers ran into 67 outs on the basepaths last season, the fourth-most in the Major Leagues. Fixing that is one of manager Jeff Banister's goals for the team this spring.

"I don't think we are going to make our guys faster, but we have to be better at running the bases," Banister said.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers ran into 67 outs on the basepaths last season, the fourth-most in the Major Leagues. Fixing that is one of manager Jeff Banister's goals for the team this spring.

"I don't think we are going to make our guys faster, but we have to be better at running the bases," Banister said.

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How?

"Decision-making progress and anticipation," Banister said. "We've got the aggressive part down. I like that. When you grade us out going from first to third, or taking the extra base, we have been pretty good."

When it comes to going from first to third on a single, or scoring from first on a double, the Rangers did so on 44 percent of their opportunities last year. That was tied for the second-highest percentage in the Majors. The Rangers also scored 32 percent of all their baserunners, tied for third-best in the Majors.

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But Banister wants more. He wants his players to get better leads on the base. He also wants better secondary leads, which is defined as how much farther off a base a runner goes after the pitch is delivered. He wants better reads on balls hit into the outfield and pitches in the dirt.

"An extra half foot can make a big difference," Banister said. "When you look at video, you can see how much of a difference it can make."

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Calhoun scratched from Mesa

Willie Calhoun was originally on the travel squad that went to Mesa on Tuesday. He was in the lineup at designated hitter, but the Rangers scratched him so that he could stay behind in Surprise. He played in a "B" game against the Reds instead.

The Rangers wanted to give him extra time working on his outfield defense. Calhoun has eight hits, including a home run, in his first 22 at-bats, but defensive improvement is needed to help him win the left-field job.

"He's continuing to work on it," Banister said. "There are a lot of things all our guys need to work on. Willie … it's defense because he hasn't been out there a lot."

Video: Outlook: Willie Calhoun brings promising skill

Tocci gets beaned

Outfielder Carlos Tocci was hit in the helmet by Reds pitcher Keury Mella in the third inning of a "B" game in Surprise on Tuesday morning. The pitch hit Tocci in the area of his cheekbone.

Tocci came out of the game and underwent concussion protocol tests. The results showed no issues, but Tocci will continue to be monitored over the next few days.

Tocci is in camp as a Rule 5 Draft pick and must make the Opening Day roster to remain with the Rangers. If he does not, and also clears waivers, he has to be offered back to the Phillies.

Moore fired up by Beltre

Rangers pitcher Matt Moore has already experienced one of third baseman Adrian Beltre's unique quirks. When Rangers infielders throw the ball around the infield after an out, Beltre likes to fire it back to the pitcher with zip instead of just lobbing it.

"Gotta get used to him firing that ball back at me, but at the same time, it reminds me: 'Hey, get on top of it.'" Moore said. "Because he throws a really good backspin four-seamer, and he's accurate with it, so I like it.

"It takes a certain, very gifted ability, to play as long as he has, at the caliber that he has. I do feel like [Beltre] is going to be one of my favorite teammates. Already telling is how guys are reacting to the way the room feels when he's in it, just the short conversations we've had so far ... I like going out there on the field with him."

Rangers beat

• Banister wants to use Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson as late-inning pinch-hitters in Cactus League games. That could be their role during the regular season, and Banister wants them to be ready.

"You can't wait until the regular season to replicate pinch-hitting," Banister said.

• The Rangers and Reds played to a 6-6 tie in the "B" game. Catcher Curt Casali was 2-for-5 with a home run and outfielder Devin Hood was 4-for-6.

Connor Sadzeck and Ariel Jurado each allowed two runs in two innings in the "B" game and Jeffrey Springs allowed one unearned run over two innings. Brett Martin went three innings, and allowed just one run, despite allowing seven hits and a walk.

Up next

Right-hander Clayton Blackburn makes his third start of the spring when he pitches against the Rockies at 2 p.m. CT Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Blackburn has emerged as a dark-horse candidate for the Rangers' rotation by pitching five scoreless innings in his two previous starts. He has allowed five hits and hasn't walked a batter. Listen to an exclusive audio webcast of the game.

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.

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