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January 19, 2009

Saving Elvis

Will Elvis Andrus really break camp as the Rangers' starting shortstop this spring? There's good reason for the Rangers, and their fans, to hope not.

If the Rangers use the same strategy with Andrus that the Rays used with A.L. Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria last year, then there's a good chance that Omar Vizquel, assuming he's signed, will be the Rangers' starter for at least the first two weeks of the 2009 season.

 In all the hubbub about moving Michael Young to third, it was easy to forget that if Elvis spends two weeks or longer on the farm at some point in 2009, his free agency rights will be pushed back a year and the Rangers will control him for an extra year. That's a highly important point, one that e-mailer Jason Allen didn't forget, and it's exactly what the Rays did with Longoria to begin last season.

The Rangers, obviously, would be deleriously happy if things turn out as well for Andrus as they did for Longoria and the Rays. Hopefully, the Rangers won't feel so much pressure from having forced Young over to third that they feel compelled to break camp with Andrus.

Of course, Elvis could spend his two weeks in the minors at any point in the season, but it makes more sense to do it at the beginning if they believe that once he gets a grip on the shortstop job in Texas, he's just not going to let it go. It would also give him a chance to get his bat going at Triple A before facing regular season big league pitching.

So don't despair if Andrus isn't Texas' opening day shortstop. It could just be part of the Rangers' master plan.

   -- JIM REEVES

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