SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Texas Rangers had a much different look when they held their first full-squad spring training workout on Saturday.
There was no sign of Josh Hamilton, and Michael Young was absent, too. Mike Napoli also was in a different camp, but the expectations remained the same.
Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, signed a $125 million, five-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels after hitting 43 homers with 128 RBIs for Texas last season. Young, the Rangers’ career hits leader, was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, and Napoli signed with the Boston Red Sox.
The loss of Hamilton leaves a giant hole in the middle of the lineup.
“You can’t replace a player as good as Josh,” left fielder David Murphy said. “There are only a few players like him in the game of baseball. That being said, we’re a solid lineup one-through-nine.
“We may not have the guy with Josh’s presence in our lineup, but our lineup is structured in a different way. You don’t always need that superstar, a standout guy to win. Adrian Beltre is the best third baseman in the game. He’s definitely our superstar. Lance Berkman has been there, he’s done it. If he’s healthy, he’s going to have a great season for us.”
Hamilton had at least 25 homers and 94 RBIs in four of his five seasons with Texas.
“He’s obviously a guy that can put a team on his back when he needs to,” Rangers closer Joe Nathan said. “I know he’s going to do great things for the Angels, but hopefully all the good things he does for them falls just a game or so short of us.”
The Rangers still have a lot of power in the lineup. Beltre hit .321 with 36 homers and 102 RBIs last season, and Nelson Cruz had 24 homers and 90 RBIs.
“I believe we’re still good,” Beltre said. “Of course, we lost Josh, Michael and Napoli. Those are big bats in the lineup, but we’re still a solid team. (People say) because we don’t have Josh, Michael and Napoli that our season is over. It’s not. I still believe that this is a really good team and it’s going to really compete and look forward to win the West.”
Manager Ron Washington said the three candidates to replace Hamilton in center are Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin and Julio Borbon, who have combined for nine career home runs.
Young’s leadership will be missed as much as his bat. Young, a career .301 hitter, was the de-facto team captain for several years.
“You don’t try to replace a guy like that, especially in the clubhouse,” Nathan said. “He meant to us so much off the field and in the clubhouse.”
Second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is in his eighth year with the Rangers, could help fill the leadership void.
“I don’t think determining who our leader is or the face of the franchise or anything like that is going to win us games,” Kinsler said. “I think it’s a little blown out of proportion. He was obviously one of our leaders. We’re going to miss that.
“Every year guys are leaving a team. New guys are coming. This year it just happened to be Michael Young. We’re going to have to move on from that.”
Texas lost in the World Series in 2010 and 2011, then fell apart at the end of last season. It dropped seven of its final nine games, including a season-ending sweep at Oakland that gave the Athletics the AL West title. Then the Rangers lost the wild-card playoff game against Baltimore.
The goal is to get back to the World Series and win it.
“You can never replace the Josh Hamiltons and the Michael Youngs in what they brought,” Washington said. “But the game of baseball doesn’t stop. It continues to move forward. Boston lost Roger Clemens and won the World Series. The Yankees lost Reggie Jackson and still won the World Series.
“The Texas Rangers lost a few people. We haven’t won a World Series, but we certainly expect to. We didn’t finish last season the way we wanted to. We didn’t meet the expectations we set out to meet. But the thing about baseball is when you start out a new year, everybody has a chance. And we have a chance.”