By Steve Hunt
Special to the Journal
FRISCO, Texas – After hitting .232 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI in 88 games in 2013, a season where the Texas Rangers lost to Tampa Bay in the American League wild card play-in game, Mitch Moreland knew changes would be made this winter.
In December, the Rangers traded longtime second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. And with Texas acquiring Fielder, who will now be their primary first baseman, where does this leave Moreland?
Well, it leaves him in a new role as an occasional first baseman, designated hitter and someone who can play both corner outfield spots. The Amory native and Mississippi State product said he’s talked to Texas assistant general manager Thad Levine and manager Ron Washington about his new role and is embracing the change.
“I can do it,” said Moreland, who appeared recently at the Rangers Winter Caravan. “I kind of did it coming up. I think I played more outfield than first base in the minors. It’s not something that’s entirely new to me. I think with a little work, I can get back out there and hopefully pick up on it real quick.”
Moreland hasn’t played any outfield since 2011, so he plans to work with Rangers outfield coach Gary Pettis, a former big-league outfielder who won five Gold Gloves during his 11-year career in the big leagues, to re-acclimate himself to playing there.
And there are the rumors of him being traded to another organization before the start of spring training even though the Rangers have said they will be keeping the ex-Bulldog around. But the 28-year-old said he can’t concern himself with things that are out of his hands.
“I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the season. Yes, I want to be here,” Moreland said.
But no matter what roles he holds with the Rangers in 2014 and beyond, Washington stated last season that he wants Mitch to just relax and have fun playing the game he clearly loves, something that continues to be a work in progress.
“It’s tough for me because that’s what I’ve had to do to get to where I am. I’ve always felt like I’ve worked to get here,” Moreland said. “At times, I go to the extreme with that. That’s something I’ve worked on this off-season, just more quality than quantity when I’m going about my business.”
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.