SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Moreland has had no problems with his surgically repaired right wrist this spring. That would not seem to bode well for Brad Hawpe."I'm happy for him," Hawpe said. "I would love for him to have a great season. If I play the way I'm capable of playing, things will be fine. If I worry about anything else, it will just consume me." Hawpe and Conor Jackson are in the same situation. Five years ago, Hawpe was with the Rockies, Jackson was with the D-backs, they were both established front-line players and their teams faced off in the National League Championship Series. Now, they are engaged in a different kind of competition. They're here in Rangers camp on Minor League contracts as insurance against injuries. Their own careers have been set back by health issues, and now they are trying to make the team as a bench player. "I do my best not to worry about that or think about that," Hawpe said. "I just go out and do the best I can when I get the opportunity."
Jackson can play first base and the outfield. The Rangers signed him as a right-handed hitter who might give them some balance. They have three left-handed-hitting outfielders with Josh Hamilton, David Murphy and Julio Borbon and two who hit right-handed: Nelson Cruz and Craig Gentry.Jackson could make the team as a right-handed pinch-hitter, but he has to hit. He went into Thursday's game with the Athletics with just one hit -- a home run -- in 13 at-bats. He also missed a few games when he misplayed a fly ball and was hit just above the left eye. "Obviously, this is a game of results," Jackson said. "I'm not putting too much emphasis on my first 13 at-bats. But on the flip side, there is a little sense of urgency to step up and start hitting the ball with authority." Jackson, the 19th overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, was a regular for the D-backs in 2006-08. He played in 414 games and hit .292 with a .371 on-base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage. He averaged 14 home runs and 71 RBIs per season. The past three years have been the reverse. Jackson got clobbered by valley fever in 2009 and played in just 30 games. He played in 60 games in '10 because of a strained hamstring and abdominal muscle and was traded midseason to the Athletics. Jackson was healthy last year, but hit .244 with five home runs and 43 RBIs in 114 games with the Athletics and Red Sox. Over the past three years, he has batted .232 with a .312 on-base percentage and a .323 slugging percentage. "It has been a rough two or three years trying to string together 500 to 600 at-bats," Jackson said. "It's a catch-22 situation. I'm seen as a utility guy, a come-off-the-bench guy, and it's tough to handle that role when you only see 200 to 250 at-bats a season. I take my hat off to all those pinch-hitters who have had success. It's not easy to have one at-bat a game and then maybe go four days before you get the next one. "But that's the name of the game." Jackson, who can play third base if needed, might be a better fit for the Rangers because he can hit right-handed. Hawpe is left-handed, and Texas already has Murphy coming off the bench. With a four-man bench that has to include Murphy, a backup catcher and a utility infielder, there is only one spot open. The Rangers like the idea of having more offensive firepower on the bench, but they may need that spot for a backup center fielder. Hawpe, who had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 5, hasn't played the outfield yet this spring and probably won't anytime soon. He came into camp still recovering from his surgery and then had another setback with a strained right hamstring. Going into Thursday, he had played in just three games and is 1-for-2 with two walks. "It's doing good," Hawpe said. "That's what Spring Training is for, to get that stuff out of the way. Bad timing is the regular season." Hawpe was a regular for the Rockies from 2006-09. He played in 585 games and batted .288 with a .384 on-base percentage and a .518 slugging percentage while averaging 25 home runs and 93 RBIs. He was an All-Star in 2009, but was limited by a strained hamstring muscle. His batting average dipped to .255 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .432 slugging percentage, and he was released by the Rockies on Aug. 24 of that year. The Rays signed him, but he hit .179 in 15 games and was not on their postseason roster. The Padres signed him in 2011 as a free agent to be their first baseman, but he hit .231 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .344 slugging percentage in 62 games before having season-ending surgery. "Sometimes in a situation like I've been through, you have to take a step back before you take a couple of steps forward," Hawpe said. "I've had the injuries derail me a little bit. But the last healthy season I had, I played in the All-Star Game. I'd like to have another healthy season and play in another one." At least Jackson and Hawpe are in camp. They may not make the Rangers even if they return to their former level or be close to it, but other teams might be interested. There are several former All-Stars sitting at home right now without a job, including Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Hawpe and Jackson are both in camp on Minor League contracts, but it's hard to imagine either player going to Triple-A. Both have been successful Major League players. They have three weeks to reaffirm that.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.