Rangers' Felix Has A Game Plan





ARLINGTON — Catcher Jose Felix was plucked out of Mexico in January 2008 by an organization that believed it had a wealth of talent behind the plate. Gerald Laird had major league service time, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez were touted as the Rangers' catching future.

Three years later, all but Teagarden are gone, and his stock is on the decline. Laird, Saltalamacchia and Ramirez have been dealt away, and the Rangers have filled their big league catching needs with free agents.

Felix, 22, now stands as the Rangers' most advanced catching prospect.

With an invitation to major league spring training, he had a game plan when the doors to the Rangers' spring clubhouse in Surprise, Ariz., officially opened Feb. 17. His focus is on offense, though he hit .278/.311/.354 over 100 games last season between high Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco.

His strength is his defense, which last year included throwing out more than half of the runners who tried to steal against him. The organization named him as its minor league defender of the year.

"I feel like my hitting has kept me back," Felix said. "I have to take advantage of the coaching and also learn from the training and the older players."

The Rangers hope that a taste of the major leagues will help jump-start Felix at the plate.

"He's got a feel for the game, an ability to work with pitchers and an energy behind the plate," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I don't think it's unusual for a catcher's bat to take longer to come around. The experience will be big for him. He's played a lot, but this will be a different perspective for him."

RANGER ROUNDUP

• The trade of Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays could hasten the big league debut of Tanner Scheppers. The hard-throwing righthander, who will be in major league camp for a second straight year, is among the pitchers in the minors who could play a role in the bullpen in 2011 even though the Rangers are grooming him to be a starter.

• With veteran Dave Bush signed to a minor league deal, both of the Rangers' two young lefthanded starters could be headed to Triple-A Round Rock to start the season. Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman, though, will be part of what team president Nolan Ryan envisions as the most heated competition this spring.