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Notes: Hamilton eyes more steals

Notes: Hamilton eyes more steals

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton's battles and overcoming the demons of drugs have been well documented, but just what kind of player is the 26-year-old Rangers outfielder?

"I played against him last year, so I have a little heads-up on what he does as a player," shortstop Michael Young said. "He is obviously incredibly gifted. You don't see many guys have that kind of ability.

"People are always going to talk about the best No. 1 picks ever. You hear Alex [Rodriguez]. You hear [Ken] Griffey. And they hear Josh. That's pretty good slick company. We're just to help him out as teammates, see if he can get used to new league, a new division and a new team."

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After missing nearly three years because of his cocaine addiction, Hamilton hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 298 at-bats as rookie with the Reds last year.

"He's certainly working hard," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's certainly a talented kid. We're just trying to make sure he's got all of his fundamentals together to play a season. I know he's going to be an asset to us. He's very good."

Left-hander Eddie Guardado played with Hamilton last season in Cincinnati and saw first-hand what he can do.

"He's an unbelievable talent," Guardado said. "He's a five-tool player. He can throw, run, play defense, hit for average and hit for power. Hopefully, he can stay healthy. We need him."

Hamilton stole only three bases last year, saying he lost "baserunning instincts."

"One thing I told Gary [Pettis, Rangers coach] when I came in here was I really wanted to work on baserunning," Hamilton said. "Not having to worry about it in my head or afraid I'm going to make a mistake, but just react to it like I used to. That's the one thing I felt like came back a little late."

He said the "pressure to perform" has been there since he was the first overall selection in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft.

"When I got to Cincinnati, nobody expected me to perform, but me as a person and a competitor, I expected to," Hamilton said. "I put up good numbers. Do I wish I could have stayed healthier? Yes."

Little John: John Mayberry Jr. is listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, but the Rangers outfield prospect is also known as Little John. Who would call him that?

"That would be Big John," Mayberry Jr. said. John Mayberry Sr., his father, was known as Big John in his Major League career. Big John was a slugging first baseman, who was selected to the Royals Hall of Fame in 1996, hitting 143 home runs in six years with Kansas City.

The younger Mayberry, a 2005 first-round pick out of Stanford, combined to hit .235 with 30 home runs and 83 RBIs last season with Frisco and Bakersfield. While he is a non-roster invite, this is certainly not his first time in a Major League clubhouse. As a youngster, he was often in the Royals clubhouse with George Brett, Frank White, Hal McRae, Dennis Leonard and others.

"Having the opportunity to grow up in a Major League clubhouse is a learning experience itself," he said.

Mayberry Jr. is a chip off the old block.

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"I think we have similarities," he said of his dad. "I think he has a little bit different physique than I do. He's kind of a bigger guy. I think we both hit for some power. The difference would be speed."

Junior stole 18 bases in 18 attempts in 2007. The elder Mayberry swiped 16 bases in six years with the Royals.

He's baackk: Kevin Mench, who played with the Rangers from 2002-06 before being traded to the Brewers in the Carlos Lee deal, is trying to earn a job as a backup outfielder. He signed a Minor League contract with the Rangers with a Spring Training invitation just before camp opened.

"This is where everything started, hopefully I'll get a fresh start and go from there," Mench said. "It's the same attitude every spring, try to win a job and get this team back to where it needs to be. In the late 1990s, the Rangers had a championship team -- three division titles -- and we need to get back to that point.

Mench was a part-time player last season for the Brewers, hitting .267 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 288 at-bats.

"There was kind of a derailment a little bit for a season and a half," Mench said after the trade. "That's the way this game is, it has a lot of ups and a lot of downs. When you go through a trade it's hard, then the whole platoon thing. I'd get settled in playing and then not play for awhile. It was hard to get in a groove after being a regular player most of my career and then go to that, it was kind tough to deal with that.

"I'm 30 years old. I'm not near the end of my career. I'm right where I need to be. I'm here to try to win a job and hopefully just take off from there."

Washington said the Rangers would likely open with five outfielders, so Mench faces stiff competition to earn one of those spots. He could open the season in the Minors.

"It's tough to swallow, but that's always in the back of your mind, but you can't think about that," he said.

He said it: "I don't think it's a new team. I think it's the same team. We just added some new pieces to it." -- Washington

Briefly: Infielder Elvis Andrus missed his second straight workout with a stiff back, but is expected to return to the field Friday. ... Joaquin Arias is taking ground balls, but Washington said he is "only flipping the ball to second base. We're not going to open him up, throwing across the infield yet."

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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