Young Rangers work in progress with new manager
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) With a new manager and one of the youngest rosters in the majors, the Texas Rangers are clearly a work in progress.
That comes as no surprise to manager Jeff Banister, whose team finally got a break Thursday after being one of only four teams to play 10 days in a row to open the season.
''The question was asked (out of spring training) about what I felt. I said then that there would be some inconsistencies, asking hitters to do different things and given the experience in some of the areas,'' Banister said. ''It's going to be a work in progress, and these guys are still grinding it and working on it.''
Losing ace pitcher Yu Darvish to Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery during spring training certainly didn't help. Then left-hander Derek Holland pitched only one inning in the home opener before a left shoulder issue that has sidelined him for at least two months.
As clearly evident in the 4-6 start, there will be plenty of ups-and-downs for the team whose roster has an average age of 27.
The Rangers split a season-opening four-game series at Oakland, including a 10-0 loss followed by a 10-1 win the next day. They went 2-4 on their first home stand, which wrapped up Wednesday with a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels - after an 8-2 win the previous night.
Texas' .210 batting average is tied for 26th in the majors with Seattle, where the Rangers open a three-game series Friday night.
''We talk about hitters finding rhythm, controlling the strike zone,'' Banister said. ''I feel we're trending in the right direction with the mindset. We've got to get the mindset and the physical side of it to push through and match up.''
With 152 games and 5 1-2 months left in the regular season, here are a few things to watch with the Rangers:
PRINCE'S POWER OUTAGE: Slugger Prince Fielder was 10th in the majors with a .400 batting average through the first 10 games. But of his 16 hits, he has only two doubles and no home runs. ''Getting hits is always better than making outs,'' Fielder said. Several of Fielder's hits have been to the left field, going the opposite way with teams using drastic defensive shifts against him. ''Obviously, when I'm up there I see the hole sometimes,'' he said.
FOR STARTERS: Nick Martinez, who never pitched above Double-A before making the roster last season, has allowed only one unearned run in 14 innings to win his first two starts. Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.59 ERA) became the opening-day starter in his first season with his hometown team after Darvish went out, and Colby Lewis (1-0, 3.38) has been solid his two starts. But lefty newcomer Ross Detwiler (0-2, 9.00) has struggled, and Holland's spot is up for grabs after Anthony Ranaudo lasted only five outs in his first start and got sent back to Triple-A.
SEARCHING FOR ELVIS: Shortstop Elvis Andrus is the team's longest-tenured position player, in his seventh season at age 26, and just starting the $120 million, eight-year contract extension he signed two years ago. He had his first home run in 482 at-bats, but is hitting only .167 (7 of 42) with five strikeouts and no walks. In the field, he already has three errors.
BULLPEN BOOST: Right-hander Tanner Scheppers will be activated Friday from the disabled list (right ankle). Scheppers, the 2014 opening day starter who returned to the bullpen last year, is coming of a three-game rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco. He was ejected from one of those games for throwing at a hitter. The Texas League fined him, and he faces a suspension if he goes back to the minors.