ARLINGTON -- While the fans gathered and tailgated outside Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, inside Texas manager Ron Washington said he's excited for opening day, but after the first pitch his team will go to work.
"We've just got to play good baseball, and I try not to express anything more than that to my guys," Washington said. "I go about my business so they can focus and go about their business."
Red Sox starter Jon Lester will try to keep business slow for Texas on opening day. Last year, Lester went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. Against Texas, he was 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 16 innings played.
Mike Napoli said Lester will be a challenge Friday.
"When he gives you a good pitch to hit, don't miss it," Napoli said. "You've just got to battle against him. He's a number-one starter and a great pitcher."
Washington and the Rangers have a new challenge this year after winning the American League last season. They are now the hunted, and after adding All-Stars Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox look to be among the hunters.
"[Boston] has added difference makers to go along with what they already had," Washington said. "It will depend on how they play together, but those are two big additions on the offensive side."
According to Washington, despite their playoff experience, this year's Rangers will have to work harder to repeat as AL champs.
"It'll be harder [to repeat,]" Washington said. "But the challenge is what the game is about. We certainly welcome it."
Washington on Spring Training:
The Rangers struggled from a win/loss standpoint this spring in the Cactus League, but Washington said that was due to guys who aren't on the active roster for opening day. He also mentioned last year the Rangers won only 10 games in spring, while this year they picked up 12 W's.
"I thought we had a good spring. When you win games in spring training, you win because your extra guys go out and kick butt. My guys that I've got here with me did a good job. I thought they hit it very well. But our extra crew didn't turn it on this year like they've done in the past. So there's your numbers, as far as wins and losses go... You can look at it many ways, but the way I looked at it was as long as my every day guys did their thing, that's what I looked at."
Washington on the decision to take eight relievers, instead of three catchers:
With the March 28 trade of catcher Matt Treanor, the Rangers opted to bring eight relievers into the season and remained content with Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba manning the plate. Washington said Andres Blanco will be the team's emergency catcher.
"Before we traded Matt Treanor, having three catchers was awesome. One of my other catchers is very versatile [Napoli]. But the way it is now straps me a little bit because I have to watch how I use him. If [Napoli] is not playing, I would have maybe been able to use him in the sixth inning to pinch hit, because I might feel that that's where the game is won or lost. I can't do that now. But the pitching will get straightened out."
Washington on the eighth inning reliever spot:
When Tommy Hunter strained his groin, Texas lost its fourth starter. The leading candidate to replace him is former eighth-inning reliever Alexi Ogando, which leaves a hole in the eigth.
"[I plan to] mix and match my veterans until someone steps up."