So close to title, Texas Rangers looking forward
The Texas Rangers used to go to spring training trying to fill
out a starting rotation and hoping to get out of last place in the
When the Rangers report to camp this week, they will have
Japan’s top pitcher and four returners who won at least 13 games
last year. There are at least seven potential starters, even after
losing their ace in free agency.
The Rangers will be taking the first step in their quest to get
to their third consecutive World Series, and insist there will be
no hangover after being so agonizingly close to winning it all last
”We’re every bit of a championship team, we just didn’t get
that last out,” said Michael Young, the longest-tenured Ranger
going into his 12th season. ”We’ll definitely use it for
motivation, but at the same time, if anything, we just want to go
out there and prove how good a team we are all over again.”
Yu Darvish, the 25-year-old Japanese right-hander the Rangers
committed more than $107 million to sign this winter, arrived at
the spring training complex in Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday, a day
before the reporting date for Texas pitchers and catchers and two
days before the team’s first official workout.
The first full-squad workout is Sunday. That will be the first
time the entire team is on the field together since those last two
World Series games in St. Louis last October, when they were twice
within one pitch of winning a clinching Game 6 before losing in 11
innings. They then led 2-0 only four batters into Game 7 before
As for what manager Ron Washington planned to tell his players
to start spring training, he said he’s had many thoughts and
written down several things. He said whatever he tells them will be
private, unlike that secretly recorded audio of his clubhouse
speech before Game 7 that was released on the Internet.
”You can’t get bogged down in the fact that we didn’t win it,”
team president Nolan Ryan said. ”You have to consider the year and
all the good things that happened, and the opportunity to go
back-to-back years and hope that not winning it can be a motivation
for having another good year. We feel like we’re a good ball club,
we feel like that we have some options this year going into spring
The top-hitting lineup in the majors will be basically
unchanged. The Rangers avoided salary arbitration with new deals
earlier this month for slugging outfielder and ALCS MVP Nelson
Cruz, catcher Mike Napoli and shortstop Elvis Andrus.
With those settled, the Rangers can look at possible extensions
for second baseman and leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler and some of their
Josh Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, can become a free agent after
this season. Talks about an extension were put on hold after the
recovering drug addict’s admitted one-night relapse with alcohol
during the offseason.
Hamilton hit .298 with 25 home runs in 121 games last season,
when he missed six weeks with a broken bone in his arm, then had
sports hernia surgery in November after playing injured throughout
The Rangers and Hamilton were talking about a new deal and the
slugger had said he wouldn’t have contract talks once spring
training started. But that all changed after his night out in
Dallas on Jan. 30. He is undergoing counseling and expected to be a
full participant in spring training.
”Given what transpired last month, everyone involved agrees
it’s just not time to look at that,” general manager Jon Daniels
said. ”The priority needs to be his recovery and his family, and
then secondarily getting ready for the season. We’re not going to
get in the way of those things with contract talk.”
Daniels said he expected to talk again ”at some point” with
Mike Moye, Hamilton’s agent, but said he didn’t know if that would
be during the spring.
Darvish, who had a 93-38 record with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games the
past seven years in Japan’s Pacific League, signed a six-year
contract that guarantees him $56 million. The Rangers also had to
pay a record $51,703,411 posting bid to his former team, the
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
C.J. Wilson, who won 31 games for Texas the last two seasons
after making the transition from the bullpen, left in free agency
and is now pitching for the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels.
All five of the Rangers’ opening day starters remained in the
rotation all last season. That group included Wilson, Colby Lewis
(14-10), Derek Holland (16-5), Matt Harrison (14-9) and Alexi
Ogando (13-8), an All-Star starter after joining the rotation at
the end of last spring.
Scott Feldman was a 17-game winner for Texas in 2009 before
right knee surgery. And the Rangers have already decided to switch
hard-throwing closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation, a move possible
because of the offseason addition of veteran closer Joe Nathan.
The 32-year-old Lewis, who was originally drafted by Texas in
1999 and returned two years ago after his two seasons in Japan, is
the only Rangers starter not in his 20s.
”That’s certainly our hope that we’ve got not just a group
that’s ready to perform now but can perform over a period of time
at a high level,” Daniels said. ”Outside of Colby you can make a
pretty strong case that everyone else in the rotation, or candidate
for the rotation, has yet to reach their potential. That’s what’s
exciting about it for me.”