Texas Rangers: Players to Watch in Spring Training
The Rangers season opener is over a month away, but there is still plenty to watch for. Pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona Wednesday with position players soon to follow.
The main goal for the team will be putting last season's disappointing finish behind them and focusing on winning a tougher division. Also, there are several players for Rangers fans to keep an eye on before the season officially kicks off April 6 against the White Sox.
Here are a few interesting players to follow this Spring Training.
Moreland had wrist surgery in December and is coming off a poor second half to the 2011 season. The Rangers met with free agent slugger Prince Fielder this offseason. They didn’t sign him, but the meeting doesn’t show a huge amount of faith in Moreland.
He is the Rangers’ best defensive first baseman and a good power bat in the lineup when he is hitting well. Moreland says he is healthy and needs a good start in Spring Training for momentum into the season; otherwise he may see starts taken away by Michael Young and Mike Napoli.
Darvish arrived Tuesday in Arizona to a big media frenzy. This probably won’t change throughout the season. Every game he takes the mound will be an event of some kind or other. He was the team’s biggest signing, so it should be fun to see him pitch live to MLB hitters.
This will be the first time fans get to see the player that the organization feels is an ace in the making. The Rangers will do their best to keep pressure off him, but the eyes of baseball will be on him to see how he lives up to the hype and his $100 million price tag.
Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon, Leonys Martin
The centerfield battle is mentioned in greater detail here, so this slide will be brief. Gentry, Borbon and Martin look to have the biggest position battle of Spring Training.
It's no secret the Rangers want to keep Josh Hamilton in left to keep him healthy. Whoever has the best spring will win the job, so all the competition should benefit Texas.
It’s safe to say Uehara didn’t pitch as well as Texas hoped when they traded for him at the deadline last season. He was almost untouchable in Baltimore but struggled so much in the postseason the Rangers left him off the World Series roster.
Texas tried to deal him but he blocked a trade to Toronto. He is a Ranger for now, but his future will be interesting to watch. An injury in the bullpen could make him more valuable.
But, trading him could free up space for Texas to sign another player or put the team at the budget Jon Daniels wants. Should he end up staying and pitching the way he did in Baltimore, he could be a big weapon in the bullpen.
Feldman will be another guy to watch in Spring Training. The fifth spot in the rotation will be one of the Rangers’ more competitive battles. Right now Matt Harrison is the favorite, but Feldman is the wild card to take the spot.
He has struggled with injuries the last couple seasons, but won 17 games three years ago and was the Opening Day starter in 2010. He was healthy the second half last season and was reliable coming out of the bullpen. Feldman could add a good veteran presence to the rotation.
An injury put Ogando into the rotation last year, and he responded with an All-Star effort the first half of the season. He tailed off in the second half mostly due to the fact that he wasn’t accustomed to such a workload. He was moved back to the bullpen in the playoffs and was a big part of their American League championship.
This seems to put Texas in a tough spot. Assuming he is now ready to pitch the number of innings required from a starting pitcher, the Rangers could use an All-Star in the rotation.
However, with Neftali Feliz in the rotation, Texas could use a powerful arm coming out of the bullpen. Injuries will probably play a role in this decision, and the Rangers are lucky they have guys like Ogando and Feldman who have experience in both areas.