SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ronald Guzmán had a batting cage installed in his backyard in the offseason, hoping to take his offensive skills to the next level.
He wasn’t positive he would be back with the Rangers in 2021, so he wanted to better his game both mentally and physically. Guzmán said he’s now focused 100 percent on baseball. He transformed his entire swing in the offseason, swinging less with his entire body and instead hitting the ball out front.
“I have learned that the more I have my head in baseball, the better I'm gonna feel and the more comfortable I am on the field,” Guzmán said on Sunday. “I just feel like a whole different player. I didn't see the intensity. And then [in the Dominican Winter League] I feel like I was aware of everything that was going on on the field. That's just something that clicked.”
Now, he is entering arguably the most important spring of his career. He's coming off a tough 2020 season in which he hit .194, and he's out of Minor League options. He erupted in the Dominican Winter League, winning MVP honors with a .360/.450/.523 slash line.
The Rangers' addition of Nate Lowe in the offseason added additional competition at first base, but manager Chris Woodward said Guzmán is in a good spot. Guzmán had a solid defensive day against the Royals in Sunday's Cactus League opener, and he went 1-for-2 at the plate in a 3-2 loss to the Royals.
“I think he's learned a lot in the last couple years, and [he knows] what it takes to be productive every day,” Woodward said. “I think that's kind of the key that we're talking about with a lot of our younger players.”
Woodward said he and Guzmán have had a healthy dialogue about his place on the team and the things he’s learned in his career. Guzmán has also put in work in the outfield in an effort to get more at-bats, though Woodward said he doubt Guzmán will play the outfield this season.
Woodward said he’s tried to change Guzmán’s mindset surrounding the game, focusing on the right now instead of playing the long game.
“We're telling [the players], 'Today is the most important day,'” Woodward said. “'You’ve got to pour it out on the field today or tonight. Don't worry about tomorrow.' I don't want anybody to pace themselves.”
Guzmán’s defense has never been the issue. His struggles at the plate have been well-documented, and he’s had an up-and-down career in the big leagues, but in order to win a job, the adjustments will need to be made offensively.
Daniels said that Guzmán being out of Minor League options may affect how they use him, as opposed to other players, especially when it comes to preserving depth on the team.
Daniels compared Guzmán to Nelson Cruz, who was also designated for assignment at the beginning of the 2008 season. Cruz ultimately cleared waivers and became a key part of Rangers teams in the following years.
Guzmán said Cruz was a key part of his development. Guzmán and Cruz have worked out together and Cruz mentored him on how to develop his swing. The two didn’t get to work out together this offseason, but Guzmán would recall conversations he had with Cruz over the years to improve going into this season.
“I wanted to be more of myself,” Guzmán said. “I wanted to forget all the things that I have been working on the last couple of years and just go back to the Ronald Guzmán from when I was 15, 16 years old -- being more simple, hitting more line drives, getting on top of the ball.”