Rangers enter camp eager to move forward
Texas ready to get past tough 2012 finish, offseason of departures
ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Tuesday. At that point, they can start looking ahead again and put past disappointments behind them.
This time, it won't be a World Series loss. The Rangers have to get past letting the American League West title get away from them in the last week of the season and then losing to the Orioles in the one-game Wild Card playoff. A team that looked unbeatable at times last year had its season come to an abrupt and unexpected end.
"I think you always have to refer to what was previous, because it wasn't successful," manager Ron Washington said. "But it's nothing that we will harp on. It'll be something that we pass over. It'll be something that we will give every single person that will be in that clubhouse an opportunity to address, so once they address it, we've got to move forward into 2013.
"But it won't be anything that we'll harp on for a long period of time. It'll just be something that we'll talk about that can make us better. That's it."
The Rangers can also start to put the offseason behind them. It has been described as a disappointment by some because Texas failed to achieve some admitted goals. The club wasn't able to sign pitcher Zack Greinke, it wasn't able to re-sign outfielder Josh Hamilton and it wasn't able to trade for pitcher James Shields and outfielder Justin Upton.
The Rangers did sign designated hitter Lance Berkman and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but there's no doubt they missed on other targets. General manager Jon Daniels still isn't willing to accept the perception this offseason was a disappointment.
"A lot like people that give grades for the Draft immediately afterwards or grade out the [July 31 non-waiver] Trade Deadline on Aug. 1," Daniels said. "It doesn't matter what the review of the offseason is. It matters what happens during the season. What I'm excited about with this club is all the things we've talked about for years. We like the core of this team, recommitting ourselves to pitching, to the athletes, to giving our young guys a chance, to finding the right guys to fit the club, to finding the right veteran presence.
"I'm excited about that. I genuinely like our chances."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Royals, Feb. 22 at 2:05 p.m. (CT)
Away vs. Astros, March 31 at 7:05 p.m. (CT)
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Who will be the fifth starter?
The Rangers will likely choose between two non-roster veterans in Randy Wells and Kyle McClellan and a group of young pitchers that includes left-handers Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, and right-handers Justin Grimm, Nick Tepesch and Cody Buckel. Colby Lewis is the wild card. He is coming off flexor tendon surgery and could be ready to return to the rotation by June 1. The Rangers are strongly considering moving Ross to the rotation, otherwise they may go with one of the veterans until Lewis is ready to return.
McClellan might be the favorite, but he is coming off an elbow injury and surgery to repair a torn labrum. He has been throwing off a mound without problems and should be at full strength next week. Wells was a part of the Cubs' rotation in 2009-11. Perez ended last season as the Rangers' fifth starter, but they'll likely give him more development time at Triple-A.
2. Who will be the starting center fielder?
The main competition will be between Leonys Martin, a left-handed hitter, and Craig Gentry, who hits from the right side. A platoon is possible. The Rangers have a pretty good idea of what Gentry offers: an excellent defensive center fielder with speed who can hit left-handers and hold his own against right-handers. Martin remains an unknown less than two years since being signed as a free agent out of Cuba. He is still working on his defensive and baserunning instincts, but he has a potentially explosive bat with power.
Julio Borbon, who was the Rangers' Opening Day center fielder in 2010-11, is still on the roster after spending a full season at Triple-A in 2012. The Rangers are also going to look at infield prospect Leury Garcia in center field. He is a switch-hitter with terrific speed.
3. What will happen with Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt?
The two infielders are the Rangers' top Minor League prospects, and they saw limited time at the big league level last year. But Olt is a third baseman blocked by Adrian Beltre, and Profar is a middle infielder blocked by shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler. Olt can also play first base and maybe the outfield. The Rangers will use him at all three positions and also give Profar time in the outfield during Spring Training. Texas is reluctant to use them in reserve roles, but may consider that if one or both can prove versatile enough to play multiple positions.
93-69, 2nd in the AL West; Lost to the Orioles in the AL Wild Card game.
Projected batting order
1. 2B Ian Kinsler:
.256 BA, .326 OBP, .423 SLG, 19 HR, 72 RBI in 2012
2. SS Elvis Andrus:
.286 BA, .349 OBP, .378 SLG, 3 HR, 62 RBI in 2012
3. DH Lance Berkman:
.259 BA, .381 OBP, .444 SLG, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 2012
4. 3B Adrian Beltre:
.321 BA, .359 OBP, .561 SLG, 36 HR, 102 RBI in 2012
5. RF Nelson Cruz:
.260 BA, .319 OBP, .460 SLG, 24 HR, 90 RBI in 2012
6. LF David Murphy:
.304 BA, .380 OBP, .479 SLG, 15 HR, 61 RBI in 2012
7. C A.J. Pierzynski:
.278 BA, .326 OBP, .501 SLG, 27 HR, 77 RBI in 2012
8. 1B Mitch Moreland:
.275 BA, .321 OBP, .468 SLG, 15 HR, 50 RBI in 2012
9. CF Craig Gentry:
.304 BA, .367 OBP, .392 SLG, 1 HR, 26 RBI in 2012
1. Matt Harrison, 18-11, 3.29 ERA in 2012
2. Yu Darvish, 16-9, 3.90 in 2012
3. Derek Holland, 12-7, 4.67 in 2012
4. Alexi Ogando, 2-0, 3.27 ERA in 2012
5. Martin Perez, 1-4, 5.45 in 2012
Closer: Joe Nathan, 37/40 saves, 2.80 ERA in 2012
RH setup man: Josh Lindbom, 3.55 ERA in 2012
RH setup man: Jason Frasor, 4.12 ERA in 2012
RH setup man: Tanner Scheppers, 4.45 ERA in 2012
LH setup man: Robbie Ross, 2.22 ERA in 2012
LH setup man: Michael Kirkman, 3.82 ERA in 2012
The new guys
C A.J. Pierzynski: He is a veteran catcher who is coming off his best offensive season with the White Sox. He was the starting catcher on Chicago's 2005 World Series champion team, and he knows how to handle a pitching staff. He is 36, but has been on the disabled list just one time in his career. The Rangers have Geovany Soto as their backup catcher, but Pierzynski enters camp as the No. 1 guy.
DH Lance Berkman: He turns 37 on Sunday and is coming off two surgeries to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. He has played both outfield and first base in his 14-year career, but will likely be limited to designated-hitter duties while building up strength in his knee. Berkman has a career .409 on-base percentage. He is one of 26 players in Major League history to have a .400 on-base percentage or better along with at least 6,000 at-bats and a .500 slugging percentage.
P Josh Lindblom: He was one of two pitchers acquired from the Phillies for infielder Michael Young. He split time with the Phils and the Dodgers this past season. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said Lindblom is better suited for a seventh-inning role rather than later in the game.
P Jason Frasor: He has been a durable right-handed setup reliever for the past nine years, mostly with the Blue Jays. In his career he has a 3.77 ERA while averaging eight hits, 3.91 walks and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He is the leading candidate to be the Rangers' eighth-inning reliever in front of closer Joe Nathan.
Prospects to watch
INF Jurickson Profar: He's ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 prospect in the game right now. He was 3-for-17 in a September callup last season, with a home run in his first Major League at-bat. He also had a pinch-hit single in the Wild Card game against the Orioles. He can play both short and second base.
3B Mike Olt: His primary position is third base, but Olt has played both first base and the outfield at the big league level. He was 5-for-33 in 16 games for the Rangers last season, but missed time because of severe inflammation in his right foot. He led the Texas League with 28 home runs and a .579 slugging percentage this past season. He is ranked No. 22 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
P Cody Buckel: The winner of the 2012 Nolan Ryan Award as the Rangers' top Minor League pitcher, Buckel goes to camp as a long-shot candidate to win the fifth-starter job. He split time between Class A Myrtle Beach and Double A Frisco last season with a 2.49 ERA while averaging 6.5 hits, three walks and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He is ranked 87th on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
INF Leury Garcia: A switch-hitting infielder with tremendous speed, the Rangers will look at him in the outfield this spring. He played in 100 games at Double-A Frisco this past season and hit .292 with 12 doubles, 11 triples and 31 stolen bases. He had just 22 walks though against 79 strikeouts in 377 at-bats.
LHP Martin Perez: Perez has long been considered the Rangers' top pitching prospect, and he was 7-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 22 games at Triple-A Round Rock. He ended last season as Texas' fifth starter, but has an uphill fight to keep his job. He doesn't turn 22 until April 4.
RHP Justin Grimm: Grimm was the hottest pitcher in the Minor Leagues over the first couple of months last season. He was 9-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 16 starts for Frisco. Beyond that, he was 2-3 with a 4.59 ERA in nine games at Triple-A and 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in five games with the Rangers.
On the rebound
RHP Neftali Feliz: The former All-Star closer underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 1. Feliz is not expected back until the final two months of the season, and it may be too optimistic to think he can have an impact in 2013. The Rangers used him as a starter last season, but he'll be used as a reliever this year while he finishes his recovery.
RHP Colby Lewis: Texas' Opening Day starter underwent surgery on July 27 to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. So far the Rangers have issued glowing reports about his recovery, and he could be ready to return to the rotation by June 1.
RHP Joakim Soria: A former All-Star closer for the Royals, the Rangers signed him to a two-year deal in December even though he underwent Tommy John surgery last April. The Rangers are also getting good reports on him, and they hope Soria will be able to return to the bullpen at some point in May.
3B Adrian Beltre: He is planning to play third base for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Beltre has been known to come up with nagging leg injuries in Spring Training, and the Rangers prefer that he take it slow. That's why they are privately skittish about him playing in the Classic.
OF Nelson Cruz: He is playing in his second straight World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic. He is another player who often has leg issues in Spring Training. Cruz also remains under possible investigation by Major League Baseball for allegedly being a customer of a Miami clinic that sold performance-enhancing drugs.
SS Elvis Andrus: He played 17 games in the Venezuelan Winter League, plus the playoffs. Now he will get more competitive time in the Classic.
P Derek Holland: World Baseball Classic squads had interest in a number of Rangers pitchers, but Holland is the only one who accepted an offer. Matt Harrison and Nathan declined to pitch for the United States, Yu Darvish decided not to pitch for Japan and Alexi Ogando turned down the Dominican Republic. Holland's absence gives the Rangers extra innings to look at multiple fifth-starter candidates.
OF Josh Hamilton:The 2010 American League Most Valuable Player left the Rangers after five seasons to sign a five-year deal with the Angels. The Rangers just happen to play the Angels in their home opener on April 5 at the Ballpark in Arlington.
IF Michael Young: Texas' all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and other categories was traded to the Phillies for Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla. The Rangers are picking up $10 million of Young's $16 million salary while paying Berkman $11 million to replace him as the designated hitter.
Mike Napoli: The Rangers will miss his bat, but they are covered at catcher with Pierzynski and Soto behind the plate.
The bullpen: No, not everybody. Nathan is back, but the Rangers lost Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, Roy Oswalt and Scott Feldman from their bullpen. They have also moved Ogando to the rotation. So the Rangers have a lot of work ahead of them in rebuilding the bullpen.
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.