SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during spring training on February 24, 2008 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Elvis Andrus can expect a lot less attention this spring.
The slick-fielding Andrus was right in the middle of the Texas Rangers' dominant story line last year, when All-Star shortstop Michael Young was shifted to third base to make room for the unproven youngster.
Andrus quickly showed why Texas made the move. He turned in some dazzling defensive plays during his rookie season and batted .267 in 146 games. He also finished sixth in the American League with 33 stolen bases.
Just don't tell him he's a veteran now.
"I still think I'm a rookie," the 21-year-old Andrus said Monday after reporting to camp a day early. "That's my approach this season."
Andrus' durability became even more important to the Rangers when they learned that utility infielder Khalil Greene won't report to camp because of a personal matter and might not join the team at all.
Greene was signed to a $750,000, one-year deal in January to back up Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler.
"We're going to be open-minded and leave that door open," general manager Jon Daniels said. "At this time we're going to plan that he's not going to be here."
Greene spent last season with St. Louis, missing 46 games during two stints on the disabled list due to social anxiety disorder. Daniels said Greene has been in the Phoenix area for about a week, though he had not come to the team's spring training headquarters in Surprise.
Regardless of how Greene's roster spot gets filled, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wants Andrus to play about 145-150 games.
"We want to keep him strong like we did last year," Washington said. "We want to get us much out of Elvis as we possibly can."
Being around established players such as Young and Kinsler helped Andrus' development last season.
"He had a lot of support in terms of knowledge around him with Mike and Ian," Washington said. "We weren't going to let him fail. But that's a credit to him. We can say we wouldn't let him fail and he still could. He didn't."
Andrus was an anomaly offensively on a team that slugged 224 homers and had six players with at least 20. His forte wasn't the long ball, though he did hit six home runs, but rather old-fashioned fundamental baseball.
"I've got to keep doing the little things," Andrus said. "For me, it's going to be doing things like the bunt, hit and run, trying to get the stolen base. Everybody knows we have the power. If we can do the little things it's going to make a difference."
One area in which the Rangers want to see Andrus improve is his throwing. Poor throws accounted for many of his 22 errors.
"I felt I got better as I got more experience," said Andrus, who added the issue is with the release point on his throws. "For me, it's all about the routine plays."
Like almost everyone in the Rangers' clubhouse, Andrus is looking forward to a season in which Texas is expected to contend for the AL West title.
"We're not thinking of winning 90 games," he said. "We're thinking of getting to the playoffs and winning the World Series."
NOTES: For the second straight day, overnight and morning rain wreaked havoc with the training schedule. "We're going to get done what we can get done," Washington said.