SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Elvis Andrus arrived at the Texas Rangers' spring training camp rested after his longest offseason without playing any games, and with a beard reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln's.
Maybe that bit of presidential motif is appropriate. The 25-year-old shortstop does have some top billing in the Texas clubhouse after only five major league seasons.
Andrus is the Rangers' longest-tenured position player. His 757 games played are nearly two full seasons more than any other current Texas player, making him a grizzled veteran and a primary leader for this team.
"You realized sometimes how crazy baseball is and how everything can change in a couple of years," Andrus said.
The Rangers had their only off day of spring training Wednesday, with Andrus again experiencing soreness in his right arm. He dealt with flexor tendinitis in that throwing arm early in camp, which was blamed on overwork after not playing winter ball for the first time in his professional career.
Andrus has insisted that he's OK and there is nothing to worry about, but the Rangers scratched him from the lineup Tuesday. He won't throw again until he can be evaluated by Dr. Keith Meister later this week.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who in his three seasons in Texas has become like an older brother to Andrus, said he has seen the shortstop grow a lot — and not just the hair on his face.
"He understands he needs to be a model for those young guys coming up, and he's maturing a lot," said Beltre, the team's oldest position player. "He's got some little things that he needs to improve in, but so far he looks like he's getting it, and looking forward for him to be the main leader in this clubhouse."
Andrus was only 20 and had never played above Double-A when before spring training five years ago the Rangers anointed him their new starting shortstop. They switched All-Star and Gold Glove shortstop Michael Young to third base to make that possible.
Now Andrus is a two-time All-Star who played in every game of both of the Rangers' World Series. He got a new contract last spring through 2022 — two years longer than any other Texas player, and with a vesting option for even another season.
"It's obvious what he brings. He brings game," manager Ron Washington said. "He plays tremendous shortstop, gives you good at-bats, is a versatile guy, and cares about his teammates."
So is there any added pressure because of that long commitment that will eventually pay him $15 million per season? Andrus did have a bit of an up-and-down 2013 while hitting .271 with a career-high 42 stolen bases.
"I mean, yeah, you can say that, for sure," Andrus said. "It's not something I was thinking actually, but again, it happens. I think you have to realize that I get paid for what I've been doing so far, not what I'm going to do in the future. It's in the past right now, and right now I'm focused on today and the future."
Not only did Andrus skip playing winter ball at home in Venezuela, he spent the offseason in Dallas.
"It felt twice as long. I feel good, I feel rested," Andrus said early in camp about skipping winter ball. "That was something the organization wanted me to do, and I do believe I did need that break."
Beltre, who turns 35 a week into his 16th major league season, has played 441 games for Texas. That's one fewer than Mitch Moreland, who made his major league debut midway through the 2010 season and is the only position player other than Andrus to play in both of the Rangers' World Series.
Andrus is accepting of his standing in the clubhouse while maintaining his easy-going personality.
"If I changed that, they're probably going to get mad at me, and then it'd be really quiet," he said. "Every year is a little bit more pressure, and I like it. That's what you want as a player. You want to grow and have more expectation and more pressure on you. You can show them the best of you."