A week from today the Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers will report to camp in Surprise.
The Rangers are hoping the spring leads to a fourth-consecutive trip to the postseason but they’ll have their work cut out for them after an uneven offseason.
Texas general manager Jon Daniels talked with beat writers for nearly 40 minutes Tuesday about the state of the Rangers as they head to camp. Here are a few of his answers to questions. You’ve said you’re prepared to go to camp with team you have despite what’s available on free-agent market. Is that still your position? “I’m never going to 100 percent close the door on everything. I think it’s our job to stay open minded and see if there’s a way to improve the team. We are fully prepared and expecting to go to camp with the team we’ve got right now.”
How do you respond to those who’ve said you had a bad offseason? “A lot like people that give grades for the draft immediately afterwards or grade out the trade deadline on August 1. 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. We were able to build off our core and extend a guy like Matt Harrison that fits and to find some of the unique right fits for us in (Lance) Berkman and (Jason) Frasor and (A.J.) Pierzynski and (Joakim) Soria and (Josh) Lindblom and some of these guys. I’m excited about that. I genuinely like our chances.” So you don’t have any regrets or second guessed yourself? “No. I don’t. I think part of our business is you’re constantly evaluating and constantly making decisions. The number one thing for us is we really like the core of this club and where it’s headed. We didn’t want to do anything to disrupt that. We wanted to find some pieces that fit and we think we did. There were a couple of other guys; obviously we were involved with (Zack) Greinke and some other guys. It ultimately got the point where for the price it would have taken us to get them here we just weren’t comfortable. You make those decisions and you move on. I’m proud of the work our scouting staff’s done, our development staff’s done to put in position to even consider some of those things and our ownership group for supporting us. But at the moment in time it wasn’t meant to be and that’s okay.”
With the roster you take to camp, what area to you feel like you’ll improve the most in over last season? “I’m genuinely excited about our starting rotation. I think (Yu) Darvish in his second year, understanding the adjustments he has to make and what the league is about, the schedule, all of those things that were question marks, he’s answered. He’s hungry to do better. To see Matt Harrison operate at that level and continue to improve, I know he’s hungry. Derek Holland feels like he has something to prove. He feels, and we feel he has more. He’s committed to that and trying to stay focused and really kind of eliminate some of the other distractions. And then (Alexi) Ogando we saw what he was capable of in the first half of 2011. To have him build off that. We’ve got Colby (Lewis) coming back and we’ve got some young talent competing for that fifth spot. Our rotation is something I’m looking forward to seeing come together.” How much different do you expect things to be for Darvish this spring? “I think Yu was as advertised. We had lofty expectations. We thought he was a real deal guy and he was. I’m really proud of him how he made some adjustments at different points physically and probably even more impressively mentally in the middle of the grind. He was able to figure out some things for himself. I think there’s still going to be a lot of attention on him but maybe the circus atmosphere will have dissipated some. I’m hoping he has a little more space to breathe and focus on his craft.”
You’ve got a lot of new arms in the bullpen. Do you feel like you’ve got to find roles? “I think there’s going to be a lot of competition. There’s a good amount of competition for a couple of spots for position players. There’s quite a bit of competition in our bullpen. (Joe) Nathan and (Jason) Frasor will be there. (Robbie) Ross, unless he’s the fifth starter, I would expect to be there. Then you’ve got a few guys with more experience than some of the others. (Josh) Lindblom and (Tanner) Scheppers and (Michael) Kirkman will be in the mix. Everybody’s going to compete for a spot outside of Nathan and Frasor.”
Do you need to re-emphasize baserunning and situational hitting? “Wash and I have talked about that some, just the idea of getting back to that aggressive approach. That’s a mental thing but it’s also the way we play the game. It’s about making the opponent react to what we’re doing which was something that was a huge part of our game. It was still last year, but I think to a lesser degree. I think personnel wise with some of the athletes and the versatility and the young players we’ve got in camp there’s a real opportunity to get back to what Wash and the staff is great at, and that’s teaching. I do think that’s something we’re going to talk about and you’re going to see.”