Baker makes roster after strong spring

Baker makes roster after strong spring

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Jeff Baker was told by manager Ron Washington on Monday morning he is going to be on the Opening Day roster. Baker, in camp on a Minor League contract, won a job as a utility player after hitting .423 in his first 24 games of the spring.

Baker is a right-handed hitter who can play first, second, third and both corner outfield spots. He has 646 career at-bats against left-handed pitchers with an average of .296, 25 home runs and 102 RBIs. He also has a .498 slugging percentage against them.

"He's a veteran utility guy who knows what he is doing," manager Ron Washington said. "He came in here and did exactly what he should do -- play and play well. We haven't had that veteran presence off the bench who can make a difference in that role. He knows how to do that and he has passed his experience on to some of the younger players."

Baker, who has been sidelined for three days with a sinus infection, could have taken his free agency on Tuesday if the Rangers hadn't put him on the 25-man roster. But Baker said his intention was to remain with the Rangers.

"I like my situation here," Baker said. "The one thing I've learned in baseball, until you hear that national anthem on Opening Day, where you are is where you are. I've seen a lot of crazy stuff so I just keep my head down and go from there."

The Rangers still need a utility infielder who can play shortstop. Rookie Leury Garcia is expected to fill that role unless the Rangers can find somebody from the outside in the final week of the season.

The Rangers have two backup first basemen in Baker and Lance Berkman. Washington said both will get an occasional chance to play there but there but the plan is still for Mitch Moreland to face both left- and right-handed pitchers during the regular season.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.