Banister looking forward to a healthy Texas lineup

SAN DIEGO (AP) Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister is spending plenty of time getting to know his new players, and he's especially interested in how several stars are recovering from injuries.

He's got good reason, too: A successful first season as a big league manager depends heavily on the health of Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Yu Darvish.

''Healthy and ready to play, I mean, that's a pretty good core group of players,'' Banister said Monday at the winter meetings.

The Rangers were plagued by injuries while going 67-95 last season, when key offseason acquisitions Fielder and Choo missed considerable time along with Darvish and several other pitchers.

Banister has already watched Choo and Darvish work out. The manager said Darvish is exercising but has not yet begun a throwing program. Banister will leave the timetable for his ace to throw off a mound to pitching coach Mike Maddux.

Choo, who had operations late in the season for a bone spur in his left elbow and torn cartilage in his left ankle, looks terrific, according to Banister. He said Choo hopes to return to his form with the Cincinnati Reds in 2013, when he had a .423 on-base percentage.

''One of my wishes for him is to go back to being that type of player, that aggressive player on the basepaths,'' Banister said. ''A guy that can draw a walk, but also hit the ball in the gap and be an on-base machine.''

Fielder had neck surgery after playing in only 42 games in his first season with the Rangers.

As a coach with the Pirates, Banister was awed by Fielder's power. He knows the big lefty's absence from the lineup was a big reason why Texas finished near the bottom in the AL in several offensive categories.

So far Banister has only exchanged texts with Fielder, but he's planning a trip to Florida to meet the first baseman.

''I mean, he's an impact player. He's a power threat. He's an RBI threat,'' Banister said. ''He changes the dynamic of how other teams play against you, how they use your bullpen.''

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