ARLINGTON — Every year, the Texas Rangers Fan Fest and awards show draws thousands of fans to the Arlington Convention Center.
It’s usually the first chance baseball fans have to get a look at off-season additions to the lineup.
This year, that list includes catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who knows the team is missing key players compared to last year.
"You can't worry about that," he said. "You just have to worry about what you can do this year and try to go into spring training and go into things like this to get to know these guys. You just worry about what you can control. You can't worry about who's not here, and who left, and who went where — you just have to worry about who is here, and what we can do to win games with those guys."
Pitcher Joe Nathan and Pierzynski become teammates in Texas after being traded for each other back in 2003. At the time, the trade was between the Giants and the Twins.
"It's nice to get him over here," Nathan said. "Obviously it’s a position that we needed to address, for sure."
"I played with [Francisco] Liriano last year, so that's other one, so if we get Boof Bonser — whereever he is these days — I could have the trifecta," Pierzynski said.
Lance Berkman, 36, will take over as the designated hitter, a role he despised a few years ago.
"When I initially went to the Yankees, I was violently opposed to the designated hitter and thought that it should be outlawed across baseball," Berkman said. "But as I got used to it, and got into a routine, and kind of learned how you have prepared differently than when you're playing the field, I actually got to liking it."
The Rangers will look different this year with no Josh Hamilton, no Michael Young, and no Mike Napoli — and they won't have to look far for motivation. The late season collapse this team had in 2012 is motivation enough.
"You have to learn from that and look forward," said Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. "I think that we still have a really good team to be better than what we did last year, and hopefully that will be the case."
"It's going to be even tougher this year, because we know what Oakland is bringing back from last year, and Anaheim has only gotten better," added Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison. "We just have to go out there and do the best we can; get ready mentally and physically in spring training to go out and start the season."
The Rangers need to fill the shoes of Hamilton, Napoli and Young. Gone are a combined 75 home runs, and also gone are a combined 251 RBI. That's production the team will try to make up in other ways.
"We just have to do it as a group, and supplement as much as we possibly can," explained Rangers manager Ron Washington.
The most logical direction is to expect more from Nelson Cruz, who drove in 90 runs last year with 24 home runs.
"Nobody is going to do what Josh did," Cruz said. "I just have to play my role and do what I do, and then whatever happens is going to happen. I think if we play like we're able to do, I think we'll go far."
"I'm not looking for Nelson to hit 40 bombs and drive in 128 runs," Washington said. "I just want Nelson to be as consistent as he's been for us. I don't want him to step up like that."
"It's not easy to replace a bat like Hamilton, but we still have some good pieces in the lineup that can do the job," Beltre said.
The Rangers won't have to wait long to see Hamilton wearing a different uniform since the Angels will be in town for the home opener on Friday, April 5.