10/05/10 — Narron: Young Rangers need to stay focused

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Narron: Young Rangers need to stay focused

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 5, 2010 1:47 PM

TAMPA BAY -- Stay focused on the series.

Avoid the "circus" outside the baseball diamond.

Johnny Narron and the Texas Rangers coaching staff imparted that message to their players once they arrived at Tropicana Field for their 2010 American League Division Series against East champion Tampa Bay on Monday afternoon.

"There's so much going on with the event, especially for the fans and media, and the players feel that," said Narron, a Smithfield native who is the team's Major League special assignment coach.

"This team has been great together in the clubhouse. They laugh, joke and respect each other. We just reminded them to stay focused on baseball, continue to have fun and enjoy the camaraderie that you've built. Don't get caught up in everything that surrounds you."

Game one in the best-of-five series is Wednesday at 1:37 p.m.

Mid-season acquisition Cliff Lee gets the nod for the Rangers in the ALDS opener. A hard-throwing southpaw, Lee is 12-9 with a 3.18 earned run average and has recorded 185 strikeouts in 212-plus innings this season.

"Cliff is considered by many to be one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball," said Narron in a telephone interview. "When we got him back in the trade, you could sense the enthusiasm and energy he brought with his presence. That's going to be a shot in the arm for these kids to have that kind of pitcher on the mound."

Tampa Bay won four of six regular-season meetings, including a three-game sweep in August. Narron said the Rays will see a different team this time, including a healthy Josh Hamilton.

The Raleigh native claimed the AL batting title with a .359 clip. He swatted 32 home runs and collected 100 RBI. Hamilton spent part of the summer on the disabled list with a rib injury.

"Josh's accomplishments speak for themselves," said Narron. "His presence in the lineup affects his teammates and the other team. When you look at a lineup that has (Michael) Young, Hamilton, (Vladimir) Guerrero and (Nelson) Cruz, those names speak volumes to your teammates and opposing teams."

The Rangers, who won their first division title since 1999, will face Rays hurler David Price. The left-hander is 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA.

James Shields, Matt Garza (15-10) and Wade Davis (12-10) are expected to fill out the pitching rotation against Texas. The quartet has combined for 59 of Tampa Bay's 96 victories this season.

"Price and Garza are two of the better pitchers in the American League and in Major League Baseball," said Narron. "That's going to be a challenge. We've got our work cut out for us. The kids are excited, up to the challenge and we're looking forward to it.

"We think it's going to be a good series."