Desmond feels capable of handling left field

Longtime shortstop transitioned to new position after signing with Rangers

Desmond feels capable of handling left field

ARLINGTON -- Ian Desmond's apprenticeship is over after his Spring Training crash course. He is ready to settle in as the Rangers' starting left fielder.

"It was good," Desmond said. "Obviously it was just six weeks. You look around the league and it's almost a lifetime for most outfielders. But it was a good six weeks, a lot of hard work. But we have a long ways to go. We're not going to stop here, it's a marathon."

Monday was Desmond's seventh straight Opening Day start (the Rangers won, 3-2), but his first in left field. The last six were as the starting shortstop for the Nationals. Monday was only his second Major League start in the outfield, and his first since 2009.

But everything went smoothly as far as the Rangers are concerned in Spring Training in his transition to the outfield.

"I had pretty high expectations for what his skill-set would allow him to do" manager Jeff Banister said. "You don't play Major League shortstop at a high level and not have the athleticism it takes to play left field. It's not typical to take a high-performing shortstop and put him in left field. You don't see that a lot.

"He's still a premium athlete. There is still a ways to go and still some things to work on, but his overall baseball IQ and athleticism allow him to do it."

Rangers beat

• The Rangers have three players on their Opening Day roster born in Texas: pitcher Shawn Tolleson, catcher Bryan Holaday and outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Tolleson has been with the Rangers the past two seasons, while Holaday and Ruggiano are with them for the first time. Holaday lives in Fort Worth, while Ruggiano lives in Heath, just east of Dallas.

There have been 78 native-born Texans who played for the Rangers. The all-time leaders are David Murphy with 826 games and Mike Hargrove with 726 games.

"It will be different, it will be special," Ruggiano said. "I remember growing up here and feeling the buzz on Opening Day. It feels like Texans live for baseball. It should be a national holiday. I know my family got out of school. They have Texas State Fair Day, they should have Texas Opening Day."

• Shortstop Elvis Andrus was in the Opening Day lineup for the eighth straight year. That's the fourth-longest streak in club history. Ivan Rodriguez had 11 straight Opening Day starts at catcher and Jim Sundberg had nine. Michael Young had 11 straight Opening Day starts at four positions. He had two at second base, five at shortstop, two at third base and two at designated hitter.

Tony Barnette, who spent the past six years in Japan, is the only Ranger on the Opening Day roster who has yet to play in the Major Leagues. Rookie shortstop Hanser Alberto and pitcher Andrew Faulkner are on their first Major League Opening Day roster.

• Third baseman Adrian Beltre started for the 14th straight season on Opening Day. That's tied for the long active streak along with Albert Pujols and Jimmy Rollins.

• This is the 10th straight season the Rangers' Opening Day right fielder had a four-letter last name. The roll call: Shin-Soo Choo (2015-16), Alex Rios (2014), Nelson Cruz (2009-13), Marlon Byrd (2008) and Sammy Sosa (2007). The 2006 right fielder was Kevin Mench.

• Rangers pitcher Martin Perez, who starts on Tuesday, turned 25 on Monday.

• Major League Baseball has signed off on Rangers coach Tony Beasley being allowed to sit on the bench during games. He is currently undergoing treatment for rectal cancer and is limited in his duties.

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