SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's only four innings, but for the Rangers, they're a big four innings.
Catcher Mike Napoli got the start on Monday, almost two weeks after his last outing behind the plate in a Cactus League game. This is good development for the Rangers, who had Japanese sensation Yu Darvish on the hill for his much-anticipated third spring start. Napoli has been hampered by some tightness in his left groin, but he worked with Darvish and hit seventh as the Rangers got their expected regular-season lineup on the field for one of the first times this spring.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said he'd ease Napoli back into the job, avoiding having Napoli catch on back-to-back days.
"We'll probably DH him tomorrow and then we'll come back and catch him," Washington said. "And then the next time he catches it'll probably be back-to-back because now we'll be getting closer to the season."
As far as Napoli starting simply because Darvish was throwing or Napoli becoming a "personal catcher" for the right-hander, Washington said not to read too much into it.
"It's his turn to catch Darvish," Washington said. "He's caught him a lot in the bullpen and it's his turn to catch him today. I think he's got a familiarization with him. He'll catch his share of ballgames, if it's Darvish, [Matt] Harrison or [Derek] Holland, he'll have them. But I'm not ready to say [he's a personal catcher] yet. I don't want to say, 'He's going to get this guy and he's gonna get that guy.' We'll just let that play out.
"He'll catch his share of games, [Yorvit] Torrealba will catch his share of games, some days it'll fall where he [Napoli] has Holland and Darvish and Harrison, and some days he might have one or two of them and [Torrealba's] got the other. I've got two quality catchers and I'm not going to hesitate to use them at any time."
This doesn't mean Washington is averse to having certain catchers work with certain pitchers if the chemistry is right.
"I don't mind doing it," Washington said. "When we had [Matt] Treanor here, our personal guy for C.J. [Wilson], that was his time to catch. That was his one day of the week to catch. But with [Torrealba] and Napoli, and with Napoli being versatile, where I can put him at first base here and there, the day might just come that [Torrealba's] catching and it might be Darvish and Nap's at first base. It depends on the pitcher that day."