How will the pitching hold up this season under new pitching coach Mike Maddux? How will the young pitching prospects respond to their first year of expectations? How will Michael Young adjust to the move over to third base? Can Josh Hamilton really improve on his numbers from last season, like he said he wants to? Can the hitters continue the power and quality hitting of last season?
Well I can't answer all the questions just yet, but I can answer one of them. Yes the hitting has returned, but was there really any doubt?
The Texas Rangers finished up their first Spring Training game Wednesday afternoon with a barrage of hits and deep balls.
In the bottom of the first inning the Rangers piled six quick runs on their Surprise Training Facility partners, the Kansas City Royals. The inning was highlighted by a two-run blast by DH Hank Blalock, an early good sign for him. One batter before, Nelson Cruz, hitting in the clean-up spot, stroked a two-RBI single scoring both Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton.
The Rangers sent a total of 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, with new third baseman Michael Young recording the first and third outs of the inning.
After allowing a solo shot surrendered to Billy Butler in the top of the second inning, the Rangers responded with another three runs of their own.
The Rangers second inning started off with a bang behind back-to-back bombs from the Rangers power-hitting three and four hitters, Hamilton and Cruz.
Texas would add one more run in the inning to lead 9-1 after only two innings.
Newly acquired pitcher Kris Benson started the game and allowed only the one run in his two innings of work.
Matt Harrison went in the third inning and struggled in his first outing of the season, allowing four earned runs off of two home runs, including a Mike Jacobs three-run shot.
Following Harrison, Thomas Diamond, Elizardo Ramirez, Casey Daigle, and Brian Gordon each went an inning apiece and allowed only a combined two hits and two strikeouts.
The Rangers added another run in the seventh behind a Joaquin Arias RBI single scoring Justin Smoak. Then two more runs from a Max Ramirez RBI single scoring Greg Golson and an Omar Vizquel single scoring Frank Catalanotto.
The Royals added two more runs in the top of ninth to bring the final score to a 12-7 Rangers victory. The game took a total of three hours and two minutes in front of 5,367 total fans.
Hank Blalock lead all Ranger hitting going 2-3 with both a home run and a triple, scoring twice and driving in two runs.
Hamilton, Cruz, Kinsler, Golson, Smoak, and Chris Davis all had two hit games leading the Rangers to a total of 20 hits.
This is only one game into the Spring Training, but some of the early signs point to another year of quality hitting and inconsistent pitching.