Results tagged ‘ Josh Lindblom ’

Interesting Moves

Plenty of moves made by the Texas Rangers today, most of them of the unexpected variety.

The first day of the International Signing Period was today and the Rangers were far busier than even the most aggressive fans would have thought. The rules have changed under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement as it applies to Latin American players. In the past, teams could spend as much as they liked on as many international players as they’d like (usually from Latin America), as long as they were eligible. Texas has been among the freest of spenders on Latin American talent. It has netted them Jurickson Profar, baseball’s #1 prospect and current utility player; Martin Perez, now in the starting rotation; Alexi Ogando, a starting pitcher now on the DL; and a whole slew of players working their way through the minor league system.

This year, the rules have changed. Teams are given a cap on how much they can spend on Latin American players and the cap varies depending on the parent club’s fortunes in the standings. The Houston Astros can spend the most, the Rangers are among the teams who can spend the least. It’s also complicated. Teams can acquire more money to spend via trades. At least one club already has done that this year. If clubs go over their cap, they not only have to play a luxury tax, they’re penalized the following year.

Count the Rangers as a team in the penalty box. Today they’ve already signed SS Yeyson Yrizarry (Baseball America’s #7 International prospect), RHP Marcos Diplan (BA’s #6), OF Jose Almonte (MLB.com’s #13) and SS Michael DeLeon (BA’s #26 prospect) for a combined total of over $5 million. Texas didn’t make any deals to acquire more cap money. Their cap budget was $1.94 million, so they’re already at least $3 million over the cap. Texas will have to pay an extra luxury tax of  100% (another $3 million) PLUS in next year’s signing period, the most they’ll be allowed to sign a prospect for will be $250,000. If an International Player Draft comes to pass, Texas would pay the luxury tax PLUS lose their first round pick in the 2014 and 2015 drafts. Texas has apparently decided to go all in this year and look elsewhere next year, probably to Japan or on a Cuban defector, neither of which is a part of the International pool of players.

As if this wasn’t interesting enough, the big league club made a move today that is very curious, designating RHP Kyle McClellan for assignment and recalling RHP Josh Lindblom from AAA Round Rock. McClellan was certainly a candidate to be DFA’d. After a decent start, allowing one run over 4 innings in his first three appearances, McClellan gave up runs in each of his next four outings, 7 in all in only 5.1 innings. Not a surprise there at all. What’s curious is the timing. Curiosity #1: Texas is playing Seattle and Houston this week, two teams on the lower end of the league. It’s pretty safe to assume Rangers starters will be able to go longer over the next six games, thus taxing the bullpen less. In other words, McClellan probably would only be needed once at best this week. Curiosity #2: Why was Lindblom brought up to replace him? He’s been a starter all year, including 4 starts for the Rangers. Why convert him to the bullpen now, especially when it’s doubtful he’ll be needed much this week? Curiosity #3: Rumor has it Joakim Soria is about ready to be activated by the

Joakim Soria

Joakim Soria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rangers, perhaps in time for the Astros series this weekend. The former Royals closer will go in back to back outings for Frisco Wednesday and Thursday. As long as those outings go well, and Soria has already tossed 5 scoreless innings in rehab thus far, he’ll be deemed ready to go. That would have been the time to DFA McClellan. Lastly is Curiosity #4: When Soria is activated, who will be the player to go? Lindblom? Why bring him up just for four days? Ross Wolf? He hasn’t done anything to deserve a demotion. Those are the only possibilities in the bullpen. Possibly Nick Tepesch or Justin Grimm could go down to Round Rock, with Lindblom moving into their starting role, but that’s pretty much a lateral move that doesn’t improve the ballclub much, if at all.

The only thing that makes much sense is we’re about to see an unexpected disabled list move on the pitching staff, maybe Tanner Scheppers, who insists he’s healthy yet had horrible command on Sunday. Or we’re about to see the first mid-season trade go down, one that changes the face of the pitching staff. Maybe Robbie Ross or Neal Cotts will find themselves part of a trade package.

Things will start shaking out the day Soria joins the Rangers. We’ll see how the dominos fall.

Righting The Ship

From gloom to doom is the space of 96 hours. It was but Monday the Rangers were coming of a disastrous start to their longest home stand of the year, going 1-6 against the Indians and the Blue Jays. The offense was going nowhere, trailing the entire major leagues in runs scored for the month of June, by a wide margin. Elvis and David Murphy weren’t hitting at all, Lance Berkman wasn’t much better, getting a hit with runners in scoring position was like trying to stop a zombie invasion: too much for one person to do alone, unless they’re Brad Pitt. Worse yet, Texas was now three games behind the Oakland A’s and guess who was on the schedule next for a big four game series? You guessed it.

Then a strange thing happened. The offense decided to return. The fact it returned within just a couple of days after the return of Ian Kinsler from the disabled list is probably not coincidental. Once the offense returned, Texas began resembling those Rangers we’ve come to know and love over the past few years. By the time the dust settled Thursday afternoon, the Rangers had taken three of four from the front-running A’s, cutting the deficit to one game. Surprisingly enough, the one game Texas lost was the one started by Yu Darvish. The wins came with starters Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Josh Lindblom. Lindblom’s gutsy effort Thursday, in which he averaged about two baserunners per inning while only giving up two runs in five innings of work, got rewarded with a post-game demotion back to Round Rock.

Whether the Rangers would win the series or get out of town with a split came down to the last out Thursday, with Joe Nathan on the mound and the tying run at second base:

http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=28203877

Now there’s nothing but optimism surrounding the Rangers again. Kinsler is back. Mitch Moreland returns from his DL stint tonight. Even the bullpen appears to have quality help on the horizon. Joakim Soria began his rehab stint Thursday at AA Frisco, tossing a scoreless inning with good movement on his pitches. Add the former Royals closer to the late inning mix and Texas will have three quality arms to get the game to Nathan. Soria could even spell Nathan for a save opportunity or two to help keep the 38-year-old closer from wearing down at season’s end.

Even with the team back at close to full strength, it won’t be easy. Texas is on the road this weekend against the team with MLB’s best record, the St. Louis Cardinals. followed by three games at Yankee Stadium and three home dates against the Cincinnati Reds. It’s a killer June, but thanks to taking three of four from the A’s, it can now be approached with far less trepidation.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 10

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 2-4

Overall: 37-25  (1st Place AL West) (+1/2)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Adrian Beltre  .333/.360/.708   3 HR   4 RBI

A.J. Pierzynski  .360/.385/.520   4 Doubles

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Leonys Martin   .067/.176/.067

Lance Berkman  .118/.286/.118

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Neal Cotts   0.00 ERA  2-0 in 3 appearances

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Justin Grimm   0-1  14.73 ERA in 2 starts

Michael Kirkman   0-1  27.00 ERA in 2 appearances

Plain and simple, this past week sucked. Texas got off to a miserable start to the week, dropping a 17-5 decision to the Boston Red Sox. The only inning the Red Sox DIDN’T score in that game was the 8th, pitched by non-pitcher David Murphy. Texas recovered to take Game 2, but dropped the series finale. In Toronto. one bad inning ruined Nick Tepesch‘s decent pitching performance but the offense went south. On Saturday, Yu Darvish had one bad inning, but the Rangers came back to tie the game in the 9th. After that, the offense went south again and Toronto finally eked out the win in the 18th inning. There was finally some offensive life shown on Sunday as Texas took the finale 6-4. Saturday, the Oakland A’s took over first place in the AL West, but Texas took it back on Sunday.

To add to the Rangers’ woes, the Rangers lost Mitch Moreland for at least two weeks with a hamstring issue, while two pitchers landed on the disabled list Sunday. Alexi Ogando, who had just returned from the DL and made a winning start against Boston, reported shoulder soreness and went right back on the list again. When he returns, it is now doubtful he will be a starting pitcher. Michael Kirkman, who everyone has been expecting to be released due to poor performance, turned up with skin cancer recurring on his non-throwing arm, so he alit on the DL as well. Rookie Chris McGuiness got the call-up from Round Rock to fill in for Moreland and had his first two career hits on Sunday. Replacing Ogando and Kirkman are Kyle McClellan, who pitched in relief on Sunday, and Josh Lindblom, who made a spot start a few weeks ago and will start tonight against the Indians.

Texas gets to enjoy home cooking for the next week and a half, with an 11-game home stand coming up. First up is Cleveland Monday through Wednesday, followed by four against the Blue Jays. Despite the injuries, home cooking should suit the Rangers, so I see them going at least 4-3 for the week. Hopefully, that will be enough to stave off the hot A’s, who also are at home all week against the Yankees and the Mariners.

Speed Bump

It finally happened. For the first time in 2013, the Texas Rangers have a losing streak longer than two games.

The speed bump was bound to happen. This is baseball, after all. It doesn’t help that it comes at a time when the Oakland A’s have gone on a hot streak of their own. Within days, the Rangers lead has gone from an impressive 6 games to a miniscule 2 1/2 games. The good news? Even with a recent 8-game winning streak, the Angels still find themselves nine games back of Texas at this writing.

What hurts about this losing streak is, save for two pitches, it didn’t have to happen. On Sunday, Texas was enjoying a 2-0 lead on the Mariners and appeared on their way to a sweep when suddenly, Kendrys Morales turned on the first pitch he saw from Nick Tepesch, easily clearing the fences and plating two runs to tie things up. I could say the same thing about Raul Ibanez‘ 9th inning shot off Joe Nathan that tied the game again, but Nathan was pitching for the third game in a row, so frankly it didn’t surprise me. Still, those two shots led to the Rangers burning through just about everybody in the bullpen before dropping the game in 13 innings.

This led to a problem Monday, as Texas had a doubleheader with the Arizona Diamondbacks. To his credit, Martin Perez, in his first game of the year, recovered fairly well from a rocky start to give Texas 5 1/3 decent innings. Ross Wolf went another inning and 2/3 and the Rangers, while losing 5-3, got through the first game using only two bullpen pitchers. That became the second consecutive loss. Things were looking bright for the nightcap with Yu Darvish taking the mound for Texas.

Darvish was as advertised. As usual, Yu had a bad first inning, when Arizona touched him for two runs (he has a 9.00 ERA in the first inning of games this year). Then, as usual, Darvish settled down. By the time it got to the 8th inning, Texas had a 4-2 lead and Rangers fans were envisioning the first complete game in Yu’s MLB career. Darvish entered the 8th with 13 K’s on the day and no walks. The D-Backs found themselves in the same hole so many teams before them have encountered: Once Yu settles down, good luck.

Darvish gave up a single to start the 8th, but struck out Cody Ross for K #14. Once again, though, one bad pitch changed everything. Didi Gregorius got a hold of this one, tying the game at 4. As soon as it happened, Rangers fans could be heard all the way to Phoenix heaving a collective sigh, knowing the beleaguered bullpen was going to have to come through again and pretty much resigning themselves to the fact that they wouldn’t.

Sure enough, Arizona got a walk-off win in the 9th and Texas has their first 3-game skid of the season.

Now, following an off day, the Rangers and Arizona go back at it again the next two nights, this time in Texas. The question for today for Rangers fans is now, “Is this a sign all is not well with Texas?”

To that I respond, all is NOT well, but all is NOT lost. Two key components were supposed to return from the DL in the next week in Ian Kinsler and Alexi Ogando. Ogando will help settle the starting pitching staff somewhat, which has seen starts in the last week and a half from non-household names Josh Lindblom, Ross Wolf and Martin Perez. While we’ve all enjoyed seeing a more prolonged look at top prospect Jurickson Profar the past week or so, and while Profar has played well offensively, the offense is badly in need of Kinsler’s presence at the top of the line-up. Now that will be longer than anticipated. Shortly after posting this article, the Rangers announced Kinsler will miss at least two more weeks with a stress injury to his ribs. This week or three weeks from now, the following remains true: Profar is good and could eventually be a great major leaguer. Kinsler is a plus major leaguer already and makes the line-up that much more dangerous. Get Ogando and Kinsler back, things will improve again while we wait for more reinforcements to arrive in the coming months.

While on the subject of Profar, many have wondered why he hasn’t started every game for the Rangers while Kinsler’s been disabled. It’s because, as the utility infielder, Leury Garcia will be with the Rangers all year. In that role, he’s expected to play and come through when he gets an opportunity. The only way to get those results is to keep him playing while Kinsler is out. This keeps Leury involved instead of just pining away on the bench. This becomes doubly important if Profar becomes part of a blockbuster trade at the July deadline to bring in someone like David Price or Giancarlo Stanton.

I get that. The playing time he gets today could have an effect in August, when the Rangers won’t have Profar around. It is Garcia who will contribute more to the Rangers post-season chances than Profar. In a sense, that’s a shame. When Kinsler is activated, Profar will go back down to Round Rock so he can play every day. Then, if by some chance he ISN’T part of a blockbuster trade, the Rangers will bring him up on the last possible day he can qualify for a post-season roster spot. In other words, thanks for all you’ve done to get us to the playoffs, Leury. Sorry you won’t be with the team when they happen. Tough luck, dude.

That’s looking too far into the future, though. Maybe we’d better worry about breaking the losing streak tonight first.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 8

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 3-3

Overall: 32-18  (1st Place AL West) (+4.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Mitch Moreland  .300/.300/.450    3 Doubles

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Elvis Andrus .150/.250/.150   Not only did he hit poorly, the normally sure-handed Andrus also had three errors on the week.

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Neal Cotts  6 IP  3 Hits  0 Runs  6 K’s

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Josh Lindblom/Cory Burns/Michael Kirkman/Joe Ortiz: A combined  10.2 IP   19 Hits  11 Earned Runs  9.28 ERA

The Rangers finally cooled off a little bit, dropping two of three at home to the Oakland A’s. They recovered enough to take two of three on the road at Seattle, but missed out on a sweep with a 13-inning loss on Sunday. As a result, the A’s gained two games on the Rangers for the week and now stand just 4 1/2 games back. For a brief time, the Rangers also had a double digit lead in the AL West over three of their four rivals. The Angels are on an 8-game winning streak, but it wasn’t until Sunday’s Rangers loss that they were finnal able to cut their deficit in the division to less than ten games.

Sunday’s loss could have big repercussions as the week begins. Only Joe Ortiz did not pitch in Sunday’s finale against the Mariners and the Rangers open the week with a doubleheader today against the Arizona Diamondbacks. You have to figure closer Joe Nathan is unavailable, having pitched in all three games against Seattle. It’s also possible Neal Cotts, recently recalled from AAA Round Rock, also would not pitch due to going 2 1/3 innings on Sunday. All other hands need to be available for both games and most of them will be tired. That makes it imperitive to get a lot of innings from today’s two starters, Martin Perez (making his first start of the season) and Yu Darvish. The Rangers could make another move today to bolster the bullpen for a day, maybe sending Nick Tepesch down for five days to bring up another arm for the twin bill.

Seven games on the schedule this week: 4 with the Diamondbacks in a home and home (the doubleheader today and two in Arlington beginning Wednesday), followed by three at home against the Royals. Oakland has a home and home with the Giants plus three at home vs. the White Sox while the suddenly invincible Halos do the home and home thing with the Dodgers followed by a 3-game home series with the lowly Astros. Of the three, the Angels appear to have the easiest week and could gain a little more ground. Oakland and Texas will probably remain steady on the week.

Not Part Of The Game Plan

You’ve heard the saying “You can never have enough pitching.”? For proof, just check out the Texas Rangers right now.

Going into Spring Training, here’s what was known about the Rangers’ starting rotation. It would be Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and an unknown 5th starter, with rookie Martin Perez being the favorite.

This lasted until early in Spring Training, when Perez took a line drive off his pitching arm, breaking it and sending him to the DL. He is currently rehabbing at AAA Round Rock.

As the spring progressed, other 5th starter candidates began dropping out. Kyle McClellan got injured, Justin Grimm was ineffective, long-shot Cody Buckel totally lost any command of the strike zone (and still hasn’t). By the end of the spring, rookie Nick Tepesch had earned the #5 spot, easily outdistancing his rivals.

This pitching line-up lasted for all of two turns through the rotation. Tepesch hadn’t even had his first start when Harrison hit the DL with back problems. He’s had two surgeries since and probably won’t return until August.

Tepesch performed well in his first start and found himself promoted to #4 starter with Harrison’s injury. Justin Grimm was recalled from Round Rock to replace Harry.

A week ago, Alexi Ogando became the second Rangers starter to go down. While his injury isn’t serious, Texas decided to play it safe and put Ogando on the 15-day DL. Having a 6-game lead makes it easy to decide on the side of safety. So now the rotation became Darvish, Holland, Tepesch (rookie), Grimm (rookie) and now Josh Lindblom. Lindblom was acquired from the Phillies in the Michael Young trade, but was primarily a reliever until, knowing he hadn’t made the club out of Spring Training, asked the front office if he could try being a starter at Round Rock. The Rangers agreed, Lindblom did well and got the call to pitch last night’s game against the A’s. He didn’t pitch well.

Lindblom was optioned back to Round Rock after the game, but he  could be back Monday for a twin bill start against the Diamondbacks.

Now Nick Tepesch has developed a blister on one of his pitching fingers and is going to miss his start against the A’s tomorrow. In his place will be Ross Wolf, an off-season sign who was merely expected to be filler on the Round Rock staff, never an option on the major league level.

Now the Rangers rotation consists of Darvish, Holland, Grimm, Wolf and Lindblom. If you want to rate them on a 1-5 scale, in essence the Texas rotation consists of a #1, a #3, a #6, a #8 and Wolf at best is a #10.

There’s never been a better time for the Rangers offense to make themselves known consistently.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 7

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 5-2

Overall: 29-15  (1st Place AL West) (+6.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Mitch Moreland  .308/.345/.846  2 Doubles  4 HR   10 RBI

Adrian Beltre .448/.500/.655   3 Doubles  1 HR  5 RBI

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Ian Kinsler .125/.263/.125   And he hit the Disabled List to boot.

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Joe (Call Me Joseph) Ortiz  3 IP  1 Hit  3 K’s

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Derek Lowe  2/3 IP 2 Runs (could be DFA’d today)

Last week I said a 3-4 record would be satisfactory with Texas at Oakland for 3 and home for a 4-game set against Detroit. Color me ecstatic today with the Rangers’ 5-2 record for the week. What made the weekend series with the Tigers so unique is the guys you expect to be the best pitchers, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, both struggled against the vaunted Detroit offense, while the two we expected to get shelled, Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm, both pitched well, though Tepesch was the loser of record in his start.

Just to show how weird baseball is, though: Texas entered the week with a 6-game lead on Oakland, took 2 of 3 from the A’s followed by 3 of 4 from Detroit and only managed to put another half game of ground between the second place A’s and themselves.

This week begins with three more against Oakland, this time in the friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. After an off day Thursday, it’s off to Seattle for three against the improved Mariners.

Two DL moves in the last week as well. Alexi Ogando went on the DL Thursday. Cody Burns got the call from AAA Round Rock and pitched two games in relief this weekend, but Ogando’s official replacement is Josh Lindblom, acquired in the Michael Young trade, who starts tonight’s series opener against the A’s. Texas will have to make a move today and the popular opinion is that veteran Derek Lowe will get released, since Burns did so well in his first two games. Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler hit the DL on Saturday, with the roster opening taken by #1 prospect Jurickson Profar. Profar didn’t play in Sunday’s series finale against Detroit, but expect him at second base tonight and for most of Kinsler’s DL stay. Should be an interesting week of baseball!

Spring Training Worries About The Texas Rangers

There has been a lot more good than bad in looking at the potential of the 2013 Rangers to do some damage in the AL West. Last time out, I mentioned most of those good things. Of course, it turns out the only name I mentioned in passing could just possibly become the #5 starter , that being rookie Nick Tepesch. It’s not a surety, as it was also reported Michael Kirkman, who is on the team anyway, was stretched out to 4 innings in a minor league game. What reason for that if not to move from the pen into the #5 hole?

Enough, though, about the positives. Today is about the negatives. Most fans would agree, as much as we like our teams, we also tend to see our team’s flaws better than just about everyone and there are things this spring that have me a tad concerned (who is this Tad anyway and why is he always concerned?) going into the regular season.

English: Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers pitcher.

Alexi Ogando (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fortunately, one of those things became more of a moot point after the Rangers played the Reds on Sunday. Alexi Ogando had not been having a real good spring and he’s the #4 starter. While he was an All-Star as a starter two seasons ago, Ogando was in the pen and, following an injury, did not have a good second half. That combined with his poor spring had me thinking, who cares about the #5 starter? If our #4 isn’t doing well, nobody’s going to care about #5! Then Alexi goes out and tosses six goose-egg innings against Cincinnati and all seems right with the world again.

Look, Ogando still concerns me. We’ve heard he still needs to develop a third pitch to become a better starter. In 2012, he somehow managed an All-Star nod despite just a 2-pitch repertoire. Nothing I’ve heard out of training camp tells me Ogando’s third pitch, a change-up, is ready as a consistent weapon. If it is, I’ll breathe a lot easier. If not, the Rangers’ fortunes good go further south.

Of even more concern is the lack of right-handed depth in the bullpen. As glowing as my last post was about the southpaws Robbie Ross, Joe Ortiz, Michael Kirkman and Nate Robertson, the reverse has been true of the righties. The guys the Rangers really need to do well are Josh Lindblom (acquired from the Phillies in the Michael Young trade) and Tanner Scheppers. Lindblom struggled at first with his velocity. Now he’s struggling with his command. Scheppers was slowed by injury in training camp. Of the two, Scheppers seems to be the one turning it around somewhat, with scoreless outings in each of his last four appearances.

A year ago, the bullpen was a Rangers strength. This season, it’s definitely a work in progress. If all goes according to plan, Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz will help solidify the pen after the All-Star break. In the meantime, Texas needs at least four of the aforementioned individuals to step up their games, especially Lindblom and Scheppers.

The last concern seems minor but it’s still an important roster spot. Texas still doesn’t know what they’re doing for a utility infielder who can back up Elvis Andrus at short. Last time out, I mentioned Yangervis Solarte as a possibility, but that ended when Solarte was reassigned to the minors over the weekend. Of the players now in camp, only Leury Garcia and Jurickson Profar are left. The Rangers have already said Profar, their #1 prospect, won’t stay unless he can get 350 at bats for the season. Profar would need to play 4 games a week to get those AB’s. With Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus up the middle, that’s not likely to happen.

That leaves Garcia and I just don’t think Ron Washington is ready to hand the job to a rookie. In other words, less than a week from Opening Night and it’s highly doubtful the player chosen as the Rangers’ utility infielder is even in Rangers camp. Ideally, he would be acquired in a straight-up trade for Julio Borbon, who probably won’t make the club despite an outstanding spring. Surely there’s someone out there who needs a 4th or 5th outfielder who could spare an infielder in return. We’ll know in the next 6 days.

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan (Photo credit: phoca2004)

On a totally unrelated subject: Remember just two weeks ago, when everyone was wondering whether Nolan Ryan was unhappy and ready to walk away from the Rangers? Not only has there been little reported on the situation in the past week plus, but I noticed a tweet today saying Ryan will throw out the first pitch at the second of the Rangers’ two exhibition games at the Alamodome in San Antonio this week. Does that sound like something someone whose departure is imminent would do? I said it when the story first cropped up and I’ll say it again. I think this has been a non-story all along. Does Nolan have less power in the Rangers organization? Yep. But I think this whole unhappiness thing has been more about Nolan just wanting to feel useful in Texas than it’s been about the amount of power he wields.

March 25th. Just a few more days before Texas and Houston in front of a nationwide audience Sunday night. It can’t get here soon enough.

Spring Training Begins (For The Blogger)

Ballplayers get at least three months off between end of season and start of spring training. I took three and a half weeks off between blog posts. Am I rested? I don’t know. Am I in shape for the 2013 season? Absolutely not!

I vegged out over the past three and a half weeks. I thought about posting some thoughts but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I spent more time playing with my Christmas presents than I did looking into the minutia of Texas Rangers baseball.

Most common statement I’ve heard from non-Rangers brethren since the off-season began and, more specifically, since Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels: “Bet it’s going to be hard to watch the Rangers this year. They’re going backwards.”

I agree it seems the Rangers have gone backwards going into 2013. Gone are Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz won’t be any help until the second half of the season at the earliest. Coming on board? Joakim Soria, who’s also disabled until after the All-Star break. Lance Berkman, who was limited by injury to less than 100 at bats in 2012. New bullpen pieces in Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom. A new catcher in AJ Pierzynski. Not exactly a group that’s going to make you forget Hamilton, Young, Napoli, Adams and Uehara, right?

And yet, and yet. I am possibly looking forward to 2013 as much as I looked forward to 2010, when I began this corner of the webiverse chronicling a team that, for the first time in a decade, was possibly going to contend for a title. That team exceeded my expectations and made it to the World Series. And while I harbor no illusions of the 2013 squad being in the Fall Classic, I won’t totally discount the possibility either.

I am looking forward to seeing what the infusion of youth does for this team. Whether the names Leonys Martin, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar will become as well-known to baseball fans as Josh Hamilton and Michael Young were for the past few years. I can’t wait to see if Yu Darvish builds on a successful rookie campaign to become a bona fide ace. Whether Derek Holland can put a pedestrian 2012 behind him and progress to be at the very least an above average #3 starter. I want to see if new hitting coach Dave Magadan transforms Texas from a team of sluggers to hitters who work counts and put pressure on the pitcher. Will the Rangers running game improve and will baserunning coach Gary Pettis be able to effectively do his job from the third base coaches box instead of his usual first base box? Will Berkman stay healthy enough to impact the team? Is Nelson Cruz going to rebound from a so-so 2012 both offensively and defensively to be the presence he was in 2010 and 2011? Can the new bullpen pieces quickly coalesce into a unit that consistently delivers a lead to Joe Nathan in the 9th?

Most important of all, how will Ron Washington handle the youth movement? Wash took a lot of flak last year for staying with his veterans, especially Michael Young, while Olt and Profar languished on the bench in September. And if he gets all the young guys to perform at a high level and the Rangers continue to compete for a division title, will he finally get some consideration for Manager of the Year?

OK, so Texas didn’t get Zack Greinke. Or Justin Upton. Or Hamilton. Or Napoli. Or James Shields, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Travis D’Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia, all of whom Jon Daniels kicked the tires on during the off-season. Nor does it appear that Kyle Lohse or Michael Bourn are Arlington bound. Yet I’m excited about the 2013 season.

Pierzynski and Berkman aren’t sexy signings, but the two of them have something the rest of the team doesn’t have- a World Series champion ring. I bet that counts for something, including what impact their work ethic might have on Olt, Profar and Martin.

For sure, this is a team with flaws. Just 20 days from Spring Training and there’s no clue who will be the utility infielder or fifth outfielder. It’s anyone’s guess who will be in the bullpen besides Nathan and Frasor. The fifth starter for the rotation has yet to be determined and none of the names in contention are likely to strike fear in the average major league line-up.

What gets me excited is this. If Wash can keep this team in contention through the All-Star break, the second half will see Feliz and Soria returning to the pen and Colby Lewis to the starting rotation. That would make for an intriguing stretch run.

Too bad it’s still 20 days from pitchers and catchers reporting and 66 days til Opening Day at Houston.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers

%d bloggers like this: