Spring training is in full swing. The Rangers held their first full squad workout last Sunday. Pitchers and catchers had reported earlier last week, while position players arrived no later than last Saturday. The team is poised for the most anticipated season in franchise history.
Much has, can and will be written about the nuts and bolts of this Ranger team – the offense that plated 855 runs last season, third best among the 30 major league teams, the starting rotation that turned in 157 starts from the rotation that was named at the end of spring training, etcetera, etcetera. It’s for sure a balanced team with quality in every area of play, but the most important aspect of this team is the experience of playing in the last two World Series. Ranger fans may lament letting last year’s series slip away, but this collection of players has come to camp knowing that this edition of the Rangers is a good team and knowing what they need to do make this season the ultimate season in Rangers’ history. The heart and core of this Ranger team has won four playoff series and participated in a dozen World Series games in the past two seasons. It’s an invaluable asset.
Jon Daniels may look like the quiet, unassuming, mild-mannered stay at home family man that he is; but in putting together a baseball team, he’s proven to be as bold as a river boat gambler, certainly good enough to make Rhett Butler proud, if not jealous. In all areas of player acquisition, he has sought high-end talent. They don’t all pan out, but when they do, he has a superior player. And now as the 2012 season is set to open, he has so many superior players that his team is perhaps the one that 29 major league teams will be chasing. The Rangers are at a minimum in the conversation for being that team.
The task of maintaining excellence for a team that has gone to the last two World Series is far different from the task of building a last place team into one that finally does go to a World Series. The safe route this winter would have been to bring back last year’s starting rotation virtually intact. The 2011 rotation may not have had an ace at the top of the ilk of Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum, but it had five guys that gave the Rangers a good chance to win almost every night. It was good enough to get them to a World Series they should have won. The pitchers were still relatively young. Bringing them all back would be the safe way to proceed.
But that’s not Jon Daniels. He made the conscious decision to eschew C. J. Wilson in favor of Yu Darvish. He is committed to moving the electric arm of Neftali Feliz into the rotation. In the past, a Ranger starting pitcher that made the All-Star team generally qualified for saint-hood. This year, such a pitcher (Alexi Ogando) may get moved to the bullpen. Certainly, there is optimism that both Darvish and Feliz will work out and make the Rangers better. There is no assurance though that it will happen. The move though is not irreversible. If the projected rotation fizzles, Ogando, Scott Feldman, Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez are in reserve awaiting the opportunity to claim one of those rotation spots. At a minimum, a rotation similar to last year should evolve – one that gives a good effort almost every night. At the other end of the spectrum, if Darvish and/or Feliz pitch to their talent, this staff could become legendary – approaching the great staffs the Braves put together in the 90’s.
Just remember though that there is a reason for spring training. A year ago, most projections of the Rangers’ rotation included Brandon Webb and Tommy Hunter. Neither started a game got the Rangers in 2011. In the pecking order of rotation candidates, Ogando and Matt Harrison were nine and ten in some order when spring training began. For the 2011 season, they combined to make 62 starts and win 27 games. The current projected rotation of Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darvish, Harrison and Feliz could be different by Good Friday.
That’s why they play the spring training games. The first one is scheduled this Sunday at 1:00 (Central) against the Royals. Colby Lewis, who pitched a scoreless inning on 13 pitches in the Rangers’ first intrasquad game Thursday, and Scott Feldman are scheduled to see action – two or three innings, as this year’s rotation starts to take shape on the field instead of on paper. Let the games begin!
- Texas Rangers Preview – The Starting Rotation (rattleandhumsports.com)
- Rangers Season Preview- The Rangers Bullpen- Rattle and Hum Sports (rattleandhumsports.com)