Defense behind the plate, on mound a priority

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers' first workout of the spring began with pitchers fielding practice on Wednesday. Manager Ron Washington is once again making it a priority and part of the first round of drills involved pickoff moves and holding runners on base.

The Rangers did not do that well in 2012. They threw out just 20.3 percent of attempted basestealers, the third lowest percentage in the American League. Catcher Geovany Soto caught seven batters stealing while allowing 28 stolen bases after being acquired from the Cubs on July 30.

"The blame goes on everybody," Washington said. "Not just the pitchers, not just the catchers, we're all a part of it. We're working on it, trying to perfect our technique and hope the results get better."

In his career, Soto has thrown out 26 percent of attempted basestealers while A.J. Pierzynski, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has thrown out 24 percent. That includes a 26 percent caught stealing mark last season with the White Sox.

The Rangers did achieve Washington's goal of improving their mound defense. Rangers pitchers turned 15 double plays and committed just seven errors in 2012. They committed 16 errors and were a part of just seven double plays in 2011.

"We practiced it and practiced it last year and today we spent a lot of time on it," pitcher Derek Holland said. "If we can cover our territory, it makes it easier for [shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler] to make plays behind us. It helps us tremendously as a pitcher."

The seven errors were the fewest ever by Rangers pitchers in one season since 1972. Dodgers pitchers committed just two errors in 2004, the fewest by a Major League team since baseball went to a 162-game season. The 2003 Braves pitchers turned 30 double plays, the most ever by a team in a 162-game season.