Loquacious Andrus has audience in Texas prospects
Shortstop's voice being heard more this spring, especially by Profar, Garcia
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers were taking batting practice on another frigid Arizona morning -- welcome to the Alpine village of Surprise -- and Elvis Andrus was keeping up a constant chatter and commentary on the infield.
"The Mississippi Kid does it again!" Andrus yelled as Mitch Moreland took a pitch deep to right.
David Murphy stood behind the batting cage and listened as Andrus' voice chirped from across the diamond. Murphy smiled and shook his head.
"Elvis is talking ... imagine that," Murphy said.
The Rangers shortstop loves to talk non-stop, and sometimes his teammates just roll their eyes while tuning him out. But this spring, Andrus has a captive audience of at least two. Jurickson Profar's locker is next to Andrus, and Leury Garcia is on the other side. They are both middle infielders in their first big league camp, and they are listening to anything that Andrus has to say.
"He helps me on everything," Profar said. "Little things like footwork, positioning, things like that."
"He's always talking to us every day," Garcia said. "It's great that he's here."
Imagine that. Four years ago, Michael Young was the one doing the talking and Andrus was the nervous rookie doing the listening.
Andrus came to camp being heralded as a great defensive player, and it was Young who sat him down and said, "Everybody is talking about your defense, but don't forget about your offense. This is the American League; you have to be able to rake." He was also the one who warned Andrus not to let Young get to the clubhouse first in the morning.
"I just remember watching the way Michael prepared himself and the way he trained," Andrus said. "I remember how serious he was in Spring Training. He used to tell me, 'If you're going to have a great season, why be lame or lazy?' That was the best advice for me."
Now Andrus is the one dispensing the advice as he moves into a more prominent leadership role for Texas. He still doesn't have the stature of Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler or Lance Berkman, but he is heading in that direction.
"He has always been headed in the right direction," infield coach Dave Anderson said. "From the get-go, the first time talking to him, that's the direction he wanted to go and the player he wanted to be. Elvis has gone through it as a young player, things like the language barrier. There's no question he's a good one to listen to. He'll make an impression on them."
The Rangers expect it to be the right impression.
"Work ethic, attitude, commitment, doing the right thing on the field when we're working on fundamentals," manager Ron Washington said. "We certainly want those young guys staying around him so he can rub off. It also gives Elvis some responsibility. He can't be doing stuff out of whack in front of people who emulate him. When you do something crazy, they'll do something crazy, thinking that's the way it's going to be."
Andrus has always been a little crazy -- remember when he was king of the postgame shaving cream pies? -- but maybe it's a sign of maturity that he's willing to go out of his way to help two players whose ultimate goal is to steal his job away. Remember Andrus was the one who pushed Young off shortstop.
"They're great kids and they're working hard," Andrus said. "I like it when they take ground balls with me. If I see something they can do better, I'll tell them. It's the same way in the clubhouse. Around here, we laugh a lot and play around. But at the same time, we take it seriously. Pay attention to the coaches, get here early. If you've got stuff to do, do it right. But they love to work out and they are willing to learn. They are good kids and I love to be around them."
It's part of Andrus' mission to become more of a team leader as he gains experience in the big leagues. He's a two-time All-Star who has already played in two World Series. He should have something to say.
"I'd love to show that part to my teammates and I want to be in that spot," Andrus said. "But you just can't go out and do it. It's not easy to be a leader; you need to have that respect. You go step by step and take baby steps. We have Adrian and Ian, they're ahead of me as far as leadership. But I do enjoy helping everybody -- especially young players -- stay on their toes and help my team win."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.