KANSAS CITY -- Rangers catchers -- mainly A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto -- entered Friday's series opener against the Royals having thrown out 26.6 percent of attempted base stealers, the fourth best in the league. It's also a significant improvement over 2012, when they threw out 14.5 percent, the lowest success rate in club history.
But the improvement has been more noticeable in the last two months. Since July 20, Rangers catchers have thrown out 14-of-43, a 32.6 percent success rate.
Pierzynski has thrown out 25 percent of attempted base stealers, which would be his best ratio since 2003. Soto, after nailing two base stealers on Thursday, has thrown out 30 percent, which would be the best of his career.
Manager Ron Washington credited the improvement to the work of roving catching instructor Hector Ortiz. He has been in the Rangers organization for eight seasons, including the past two as a catching instructor at both the Major and the Minor League level.
"When he's around them, you can see the difference," Washington said. "He's very good. And he just doesn't come up here, work with them and then leave. He stays in touch with them and watches our games. He's a good analyst and he gets them to apply it. That's a good teacher right there. A lot of people can analyze but can't implement."
Soto was in the lineup for the second straight game on Friday, but Pierzynski served as the designated hitter. Pierzynski has a bruised left hand after getting jammed by a pitch on Tuesday against the Rays. He was still able to catch 12 innings on Wednesday before getting the day off on Thursday. He can catch if needed.
"A.J. is an animal," Washington said. "It certainly won't affect his hitting, he swings at everything anyway."
Nathan seeking multiyear deal with Rangers
KANSAS CITY -- Reliever Joe Nathan would like to stay with the Rangers on a multiyear contract beyond 2014. That's why he has a clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent after this season.
Nathan triggered that clause when he pitched the ninth inning in the Rangers' 8-2 victory over the Rays on Thursday. It was the 55th game he finished this season. Under the terms of his contract, the Rangers have a $9.5 million option on Nathan for 2014. But he now has the right to void that option and become a free agent because he has 55 games finished.
He'd rather stay with the Rangers on a multiyear deal. His options would be a multiyear deal with the Rangers, void the option and try to get a multiyear deal elsewhere or play in 2014 on the one-year, $9.5 million option.
"The only reason to have that incentive in play is to have a little bit of power in getting a multiyear deal," Nathan said. "Other than that, I'm just glad to get to that point and have it over and done with. Not that I was worried about it, but now I don't have to concern myself with it. I can focus on what's important."
The Rangers will wait until after the season to discuss all their potential free agents.
"We have not had any discussions on our class of free agents and Joe is prominent among them," assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "At the end of the season, we'll turn our attention to those type of discussions."
Nathan is 5-2 with a 1.53 ERA and 39 saves in 42 chances going into Friday night's series opener against the Royals. He blew his third save on Wednesday in a 4-3 loss to the Rays. That's why he wanted to pitch on Thursday against the Rays even though the Rangers had a six-run lead going into the ninth inning.
"For sure, I just wanted to get the bad taste out of my mouth," Nathan said. "I told them if we had a lead, I'd like to get back on the mound. They said we'll see what kind of lead it is. I wasn't sure what they had in mind, but I wanted to get back in there and get a good taste in my mouth in case we see them again."
Murphy back in left field, ready to contribute
KANSAS CITY -- David Murphy was back in left field on Friday night, his first start in left field in over a week. Royals right-hander Ervin Santana was on the mound and Murphy was hitting .219 off him, but with three home runs in 32-bats.
"He has been working pretty good and I can see some improvement in his swing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I hope he can take it into the game. It's not about hits; it's about having good at-bats. If he has good at-bats, I'll run him back out there. I've said all along, I want David in that lineup. He brings something. Let's see what happens."
Murphy went into Friday's game hitting .220 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. He also had a .281 on-base percentage and a .375 slugging percentage. Murphy has been losing playing time against right-handers to Jim Adduci, a rookie who was called up at the beginning of September. Adduci had three hits against Oakland on Sept. 15, but he is 1-for-13 since then. Murphy did not play during the four-game series against the Rays.
"I'm a baseball player by profession so I want to play baseball," Murphy said. "I want to be on the field. I know I'm capable even though I'm sitting on the bench at the most important time of the year. But I understand the situation I'm in, so I take the attitude that I come to the ballpark every day ready to help out any way I can. Today, I'm in the lineup so I hope I can contribute any way possible and get us a win."
Rangers keeping tabs on bullpen's workload
KANSAS CITY -- As the Rangers enter the final 10-game stretch in the regular season, manager Ron Washington is going to rely on his best relievers to get them into the playoffs. But he knows that Joe Nathan, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers can't pitch every game.
Nathan and Scheppers had pitched in three straight games heading into Friday night's series opener against the Royals. Both were expected to be available on Friday.
"Neftali [Feliz] is going to have to get some outs, [Nick] Tepesch is going to have to get some outs and [Ross] Wolf is going to have to get some outs," Washington said.
Scheppers and Soria are still the primary backup closers if Nathan is not available. Washington made it clear Feliz is not yet ready for that role. He was just activated at the beginning of the month after missing a year because of Tommy John surgery. Feliz has not allowed a run in just five appearances.
• This series marked the second time the Rangers and the Royals have faced each other and both teams had at least 80 wins. The only other time was at the end of the 1993 season.
• The Royals and the Rangers also entered the series as the top two stolen base leaders in the American League. The Royals had 147 and the Rangers had 132 prior to Friday night's opener.
• The Rangers had to come from behind to beat the Rays on Thursday. It was their 45th come-from-behind win this season, matching the most in club history.
• The Rangers had 16 hits, five steals and four home runs on Thursday. That's the first time they have hit that particular trifecta in club history.
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.