Rangers open season with lofty expectations

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians will open the season with lofty expectations.

The outlook for the Indians is not only from them, but from just about everyone in baseball after the team’s run to the World Series last year.

The situation for the Rangers is a little different. Even though Texas won the American League West the past two seasons, many prognosticators don’t have the Rangers as the team to beat in the West.

The Rangers are fine with that.

“I get told about predictions,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “They’re fun. They’re entertaining. We all make our own predictions. The great thing is at the end of the year we get to see who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t know that anybody was right (about us) the last two years.”

It may be difficult to judge the Indians and the Rangers off Monday’s season opener. For one, both teams will be throwing their aces with Corey Kluber going for Cleveland and Yu Darvish making his first Opening Day start for the Rangers.

Neither team will be at full strength offensively either. Texas star third baseman Adrian Beltre will be on the disabled list, while Cleveland regulars Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall will also open 2017 on the DL.

Both teams realize that is part of the game.

“Nobody really takes the time to feel sorry for ourselves if somebody does get hurt,” Kluber said to MLB.com. “If something unfortunate happens, it seems like we have the mindset of moving past it and looking forward, ‘What’s next? What do we need to do to either prevent it from happening again or make up for a loss?'”

The Monday game will also give fans of both teams a chance to see new additions to the offense for the first time. Mike Napoli was a key part of the Indians’ run to the World Series last year, but he is back with Texas for a third stint. His replacement in Cleveland is Edwin Encarnacion, who had a hand in eliminating the Rangers from the postseason the past two years when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays.

“It’s just the anticipation of getting started,” Napoli said. “You have those happy thoughts, butterflies and wondering what it’s going to be like. We’re excited to get it going after a long spring. I’ve been through playing against a team I (played for) before. It’ll definitely be emotional. Going up against them (the Indians) should make for a fun time. It’s always fun going against great friends on the other side, but we’re trying to accomplish something here.”

While Encarnacion will be a new bat in the Cleveland lineup, the Indians will also have an addition they missed last year. Right shoulder woes limited former All-Star Michael Brantley to just 11 games in 2016.

Brantley is eager to be a contributor to the Indians again starting Monday.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feel that day,” he said to MLB.com. “Just knowing how hard I worked, and how we worked, to get back to this situation. Nothing was guaranteed, nothing was promised. It was a lot of hard work that paid off.”