Rangers will hit refresh in spring by putting 2015 in past
There will be a moment early in spring training when the Texas Rangers gather as a group and put last season in the past.
All of 2015 — the slow start in April that could have derailed the entire season, the surprising AL West title and the mind-boggling, gut-punching end in the playoffs.
"We will shut the door on last year at some point when it’s appropriate," manager Jeff Banister said. "I think the ability for all of our guys to shut the door on last year collectively is important so that we refresh just where we came from and what we went through, but also acknowledge this is a new year."
A year when expectations certainly will be much different, at least externally.
Left-hander Cole Hamels will start this season in Texas after being a midseason addition last year and Yu Darvish is on track to return by late May or early June from Tommy John surgery that kept him out all last season. Plus, the bullpen has been strengthened even more and the everyday lineup is pretty much intact.
Banister, the AL Manager of the Year in his Rangers debut, said the team didn’t meet its goal "of winning the last game we get to play at the end of year."
Texas got to Game 5 of the AL Division Series. They lost after that wild seventh inning in Toronto, with three consecutive errors before Jose Bautista’s tiebreaking three-run homer punctuated by his big bat flip.
Prince Fielder said Banister sets the tone, and did so last year before even managing his first game when Texas was coming off a 95-loss season.
"How he kept the mood in the clubhouse and how he started it off in spring training, it’s hard to create that during the season," Fielder said. "It’s a credit to how good a manager he is of getting us going in that mindset in spring training."
Rangers pitchers and catchers have their first workout Friday, and the first full-squad workout is February 24 in Surprise, Arizona. Here are a few things to watch:
Third baseman Adrian Beltre played most of last season with a torn ligament in his left thumb and missed two games in the ALDS because of a lower back strain. He had thumb surgery after the season, and plenty of time to rest his back. "It’s just nice getting to a point that it’s comfortable doing everything," Beltre said. "I don’t think there will be any discomfort in spring training."
One of the biggest questions for the Rangers going into last spring, the bullpen is now a strength. Shawn Tolleson had 35 saves after mid-May, and there were the midseason additions of Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson. Two more relievers with closing experience were added this offseason, free agent Tony Barnette (from Japan) and Tom Wilhelmsen (trade from Seattle).
AVOIDING APRIL SLUMP
The Rangers were 8-16 and 9 1-2 games out of first place a month into last season. But last April, Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo were just starting solid comebacks from injury-plagued 2014 seasons, Darvish had already been lost for the season and Derek Holland pitched only one inning in before missing four months. The bullpen was still months from its midseason makeover.
The Rangers have four new coaches this season, including hitting coach Anthony Iapoce and pitching coach Doug Brocail. Mike Maddux had been the Rangers pitching coach the past seven seasons but the two sides were unable to come to terms on a new contract, and he’s now with the Washington Nationals.
The Rangers have a larger clubhouse and weight room waiting for them in Arizona, where they have spent their springs since 2003. The changes were part of a $22 million project that also included improvements on the other side of the complex for the Kansas City Royals, the defending World Series champions.
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