By Matthew Postins
The Texas Rangers open Spring Training this week in Surprise, Ariz., as pitchers and catchers reported for workouts. Spring Training starts earlier this year, as the World Baseball Classic starts in March. In this article, RattleandHumSports.com previews the Rangers by breaking down the outfielders invited to camp.
Outfielders: Engel Beltre, Julio Borbon, Nelson Cruz, Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin, David Murphy.
Non-Roster Invitees (as of Feb. 6)
Outfielders: James Adduci, Joey Butler, Aaron Cunningham.
The Starters: with Josh Hamilton gone, Gentry now projects as the opening-day center fielder. Gentry may not have Hamilton’s bat, but he has the speed and glove to handle the Ballpark’s ample center field. Murphy slides into left field as the full-time starter, with Cruz in right.
The Backups: Depending on how manager Ron Washington wants to put together his Opening Day roster, he could keep one or two outfielders (there are potential options among the infielders as well). Beltre, Borbon and Martin will duke it out in camp. Beltre is a natural center fielder who spent last season at Double A Frisco, where he hit .261 and stole 36 bases. Beltre is set to play for Spain in the World Baseball Classic, likely surrendering any chance he has of making the Opening Day roster. Borbon lost his job last year, spending all of 2012 in Round Rock. He has to prove he can be a productive reserve. Martin comes in with the least amount of baggage. Martin hit just .174 in 24 games with Texas last year, but he was a beast at Round Rock, hitting .359 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. Is the problem that he’s young or that he’s having trouble adjusting to not being an everyday player?
The Wild Cards: Cruz’s status. Cruz has been linked to the performance-enhancing drug scandal that has emerged in Miami. MLB is conducting the investigation and the Rangers do not know when it will make a ruling. If MLB determines that Cruz violated the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, that’s a 50-game suspension. That’s why the competition behind the starters will be important. One of them could be a starter for a long stretch this season.
In that case, Butler could be intriguing. He’s been in the Rangers system for five years now, plays right field and his power numbers have gotten better every year. Last year he hit 20 homers and drove in 78. But he strikes out a lot.
On Opening Day?: Assuming Cruz is available and there are no major injuries, Martin appears to be the best bet to be the backup to Murphy, Gentry and Cruz. Borbon could make things interesting.