Clearing the desert air before the games begin
* The Rangers still have nine unsigned players, including Josh Hamilton. Assistant general manager Thad Levine is trying to get everybody under contract before the games begin. Those who don’t agree can be renewed at terms dictated by the club.
* Long-term discussions with Hamilton’s agents are expected later in the spring. Right now they are trying to get the 2009 contract done.
* The Rangers had 25 pitchers throw in their two intrasquad games. Jason Jennings, Derrick Turnbow, Kason Gabbard and John Bannister were held out. Jennings and Gabbard both had surgery last year and are a little bit behind everybody else. So is Turnbow who is recovering from a partial tear in the rotator cuff. They are all throwing batting practice but no word when they’ll be ready for a Cactus League game.
* On Monday, Michael Young batted cleanup in the intrasquad game for the A team. It seemed like a big deal at the time. On Tuesday, Hank Blalock batted cleanup. That seems to be the more likely scenario during the regular season, at least against right-handers. Nelson Cruz would bat fifth and they may flip-flop against left-handers.
* That seems to be manager Ron Washington’s plan although there are some in the organization who feel Young is worth looking at as the cleanup hitter.
* Of course that’s not taking into account what happens if Andruw Jones makes the team and is worthy of being in the starting lineup. Nothing says cleanup hitter like a guy who has hit 51 home runs in his career.
* Pretty impressive on a team where conditioning, being ready for camp and pushing pitchers is a priority that Kris Benson, who just showed up, will start the first Cactus League game. The Rangers apparently really want to look hard at Benson.
* Defense does seem to be a priority in camp, especially with pitching coach Mike Maddux. During the intrasquad games, after an inning was over and before the players changed sides, the Rangers practiced at least one bunt.
* Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz both failed to retire a batter in their one inning of work in the intrasquad games. Said manager Ron Washington, “They will.”
* Omar Poveda, who has been overlooked and drifted downward on prospect lists, had a scoreless inning despite allowing a one-out triple. He kept the runner at third by getting Frank Catalanotto on a grounder back to the mound and Adam Melhuse on a grounder to short.
* Josh Rupe, Dustin Nippert and Frank Francisco breezed through 1-2-3 innings on Tuesday. Scott Feldman gave up a single to Ian Kinsler, then got Michael Young to hit into a double play. He also struck out Josh Hamilton with a changeup.